Wage subsidies can help recovery efforts

RECENTLY I visited vegetable producers in the Fassifern Valley whose farms were devastated by the recent floods.

In a short 14-hour period, they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of crops, infrastructure including irrigation pumps and equipment, levee banks and, worst of all, precious topsoil that enables them to farm.

Some of the washouts were two metres deep, an indication of the ferocity of the water flow.

In the Fassifern, fields at this time are usually prepared for planting winter crops of carrots, beetroot, beans and a host of other commodities.

All that preparation is now lost, either washed away or buried under tonnes of silt and debris. The growers have no choice but to wait for the fields to dry, clean up and then start again.

However, this time there will be no income until mid-year, at best, and some fields will not be at full productive capacity for up to four years.

Much discussion among the growers centred on the future of their farm employees and how to spread the work evenly around to try and retain staff

The half-dozen horticulture farms in this region are responsible for over 1000 jobs in peak season, a mixture of permanent staff from the regional towns and transient labour that follows the harvest trail.

So the farmers' misfortune flows to the local community, tourism and, in the end, to all of us.

Growcom is continuing to work with the governments to secure assistance for growers whose farms were severely damaged in regions which have not yet been acknowledged - Sunshine Coast, Albert and Logan region and Gold Coast hinterland.

We need the co-operation of local councils who must put in formal applications to the State Government as part of the process.

We are still urging the government to consider wage assistance which is urgently needed by growers to retain their farm labour in the clean-up process ahead, and which was so valuable in the aftermath of cyclones Larry and Yasi.

Topics:  alex livingstone flood recovery growcom oswald

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