Helen Haines has welcomed Smart Farms Small Grants of $345,900 to help Indi wine-grape growers and vignerons deal with climate change impacts and strengthen natural resource management and economic outcomes among farmers, including small-scale landholders.

The Independent Member for Indi said the last year’s North East Black Summer bushfires caused widespread damage across the region’s premium wine sector, with losses from smoke taint costing $140 million.

“The farm gate value of the grape harvest before the Alpine and King valleys fires was $36 million, but the impact of smoke taint cut that to just $13 million,” Dr Haines said.

“Because of the fruit loss, many vignerons were also unable to produce wine and reap the added value that cellar door, restaurant and retail sales deliver to our regional economy,” Dr Haines said.

“Climate disruption poses a significant threat to the viability of viticulture in the North East, and if the sector has to account for catastrophic smoke taint events every 10 years, or even five years, it will fundamentally change the business model and viability of our producers.

“So the $80,000 Smart Farms Small Grants allocation to help AgBiz Assist bring together more than 70 vignerons from the Alpine Valleys, Beechworth, Glenrowan, King Valley and Rutherglen, which make up the North East geographical indications, will build their capacity to connect, understand and manage future risks like these.”

Dr Haines said grants had also been made to Burgoigee Creek Landcare Group, Ovens Landcare Network and Wodonga Urban Landcare Network.

Burgoigee Creek Landcare Group, which supports community environment projects around the Murmungee Basin, will use $99,500 to workshop the forecast impacts of climate change, present management tools to improve landscape resilience and capacity for change.

It will also help landholders develop property plans to include biodiversity assets, shade and water supply.

Ovens Landcare Network will use $79,600 to build members’ uptake of best management practice in the Meadow Creek and Carboor farming areas south east of Moyhu.

Wodonga Urban Landcare Network will use $95,800 to support its ‘Healthy Hectares’ project, helping small, lifestyle block and hobby landholders learn about and adopt land management best practice.

“These grants help our farming communities in really practical ways to explore and understand climate change, share that knowledge and manage risk,” Dr Haines said.

“I’m also really pleased to see ongoing support from this grant program for Burgoigee Creek Landcare Group’s work across its farming community.

“In the Smart Farms Small Grants 2020 round, the group was awarded $50,000 to support practical, community-driven action to deal with climate change.”

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