MP seeks help for hailstorm-affected growers

MP seeks help for hailstorm-affected growers

Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has spoken with three Federal Ministers and written to the State Agriculture Minister to advocate for storm-affected fruit growers in the Adelaide Hills.

“Not only did I have a conversation with the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud, I also met with Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher to discuss whether there was scope to extend the Farm Household Allowance for drought-affect farmers to affected growers, a step that requires more detailed information about the extent of the hail damage inflicted on orchards during last week’s storms,” Rebekha said.

“In addition, I had an urgent meeting with the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds, and discussed the possible declaration of the relevant areas of the Adelaide Hills as Category C for Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).

“We need to have this declaration first so the Federal Government can provide assistance to growers so I have written to the State Emergency Services Minister, Corey Wingard, to respectfully ask the South Australian Government to take the necessary steps to make this happen.”

Category C under the NDRRA includes grants or the creation of a Community Recovery Fund to assist communities affected by natural disasters and can offer funding ranging from $100,000 to $20 million for clean-up and recovery projects.

Recent recipients include the Queensland communities affected by tropical cyclone Oswald in 2013 and the Victorian floods of 2011 and certain criteria have to be met, including a public infrastructure damage bill of at least $240,000.

“I am liaising with the Apple and Pear Growers Association of South Australia to make sure we have a good understanding of what has occurred to our growers and what assistance they might need and how we might access that assistance,” Rebekha said.

“Ultimately the State Government needs to declare the level of emergency and assist in assessing the quantum of damage.

“I had positive conversations with the Ministers and I believe they recognise we don’t want farmers to walk off the land.

“We want them to stay on the farm and to continue producing for us.

“Particularly for our apple growers, this is the second year in a row when the seasons have been beset with severe weather events completely outside their control.

“Looking to the future, I hope to work with the industry to see if there are loan schemes or other avenues growers can pursue long-term measures such as permanent netting structures.

“We need preventative measures as a matter of urgency.

“In the short-term, I would like to let our growers know that their community values them and supports them and we’ll be at the shops buying ‘Hailstorm Hero’ fruit.”