Federal Government commits to netting funding for fruit growers

By Rodney Woods

Apple and pear farmers across Victoria will soon be able to access up to $4 million to install new or replace damaged netting.

Eligible growers will be required to at least match the Commonwealth contribution and the trial program will be capped at $300 000 per grower.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to co-invest with our farmers,” Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum said.

“The apple and pear industry are incredibly excited about this government package.

“They've got fantastic results in terms of less hail damage, less sun damage, less damage from birds and 20 per cent reduction in water use.

“All of these issues can really hurt a farmer's crop, or any fruit crop, so we expect this pilot program to be over-subscribed too.”

Mr Drum said the department was working on a ballot system to determine who would receive the funding in the event the program was oversubscribed.

“There is an expression of interest process, where farmers will submit what they want to invest and there’s three different grades of netting — cheap netting, middle-of-the-road and high-end stuff,” he said.

“Whether they max it out will depend on the finances of farmers.”

The scheme, which is a pilot program, will commence in 2020 and operate until December 31, 2021, or until funds are fully committed.

Mr Drum said the success of the program would determine whether or not it would continue in 2022 and whether it would include other states or commodities.

Further details will be available on the Federal Department of Agriculture's website soon.