Helen Haines says Indi grape-growers whose 2020 vintage was affected by bushfire have had a significant win, with the federal and Victorian governments expanding a $75,000 Primary Producer Grant program.

The Independent Federal Member for Indi said the grant supported farmers whose wine grape crops were damaged by ash or smoke last summer.

“No Indi growers suffered directly from fire, but many sustained widespread fruit loss and financial impact from smoke taint, which affects wine quality,” Dr Haines said.The changes announced on July 31 significantly expand access to the Primary Producer Grant in a number of ways:

  • Extending the closing date for applications to December 31, 2020
  • Removing the off-farm income threshold
  • Extending eligibility to businesses earning more than 50 per cent of income from a combination of primary production and goods made directly from that produce (such as wine)
  • Extending the time-frame for reaching the 50 per cent income threshold from three years to eight years
  • Confirming that the costs of cleaning up, salvaging or harvesting damaged crops (including damage caused by smoke, ash or soot) are eligible grant activities
  • Removing the requirement for applicants to be registered for GST
  • Allowing the forestry industry to demonstrate that 50 per cent income threshold when trees are harvested.

Dr Haines said applicants who previously were unsuccessful but become eligible as a result of the latest changes would not have to re-apply, as Rural Finance Victoria will contact them.

“I am thrilled that the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments have acted to expand access to this source of funding,” she said.“Last week, I invited all grape-growers and vignerons to a virtual roundtable to discuss the significant impacts of the bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had growers and vignerons from each of the six Geographical Indications (GIs) in Indi and the newly-formed North East Wine Zone, an umbrella entity to represent the local sector’s interests.“The North East grape and wine sector incurred $141 million worth of damage from the fires.

“But only 41 Primary Producer Grants totalling just $1.8 million have since been paid out in the main grape-growing areas of Indi.

“Fifteen grants amounting to $769,000 have been paid to producers in Alpine Shire, seven amounting to $124,000 in Indigo Shire, and 19 amounting to $914,000 in the Rural City of Wangaratta.

“The gap between the damage incurred and the support provided is remarkable.“What is even more astounding is that there is still more than $500 million of funding allocated to bushfire recovery to be spent. The Government is yet to explain how this will be spent, let alone open applications.

“I hope that the expansion of the Primary Producer Grants mean more Indi growers can access this critical funding.

“I am also determined to work with North East Wine Zone in the months ahead to ensure this sector – critical for our regional economy – gets the support it needs.”

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