2016 Annual Report
Excerpt from the Chair’s Report
The 2015/16 season has been one of mixed fortunes for Mallee farming businesses. A promising, healthy autumn break soon transformed into a typical El Nino dry spring and summer. Thankfully, interest rates remain low, however, the lending market remains tight and the availability of funds continues to be subject to increased scrutiny. The link between commodity prices and farm profitability remains very clear.
On the positive side we have stock, table grapes, almonds and citrus all doing well, whilst the winery sector continue to struggle. The recent price announcements in the dairy sector are of significant concern and will impact on all services. Hopefully the low Aussie Dollar will allow for increased returns for exported product. The other issue affecting farm profitability is water – be it rain or irrigation availability. Unfortunately the El Nino induced drought quickly impacted on both permanent and temporary water markets. The outlook seems to have turned with good winter and spring rains forecast.
Whilst our counsellors continued to see a similar number of clients this year, the complexity of their caseload continues to increase. In accordance with the requirements of the Department of Agriculture & Water Resources we are seeking to provide a more intensive ‘case management’ approach that hopefully allows for a shorter intervention with most farmers.
We continue to provide assistance to a large number of applicants for Farm Household Allowance. These claims are a reflection of the poor returns to some horticulturalists and the continuous need for adjustments in this sector and the impact of drought and poor seasons in the broadacre sector.
The highlight of this year has been our successful tender for ongoing funding. The challenge for us is the significant increase in area and farm numbers that we are now required to service. Geographically, the newly created North West region includes approximately two-thirds of the former RFCS Vic – North Central region.