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    VISIT: Federal Agricultural Minister David Littleproud, left, with Member for Mallee Anne Webster and Australian Plant Proteins director Phil McFarlane. Picture: DEAN LAWSON

Potential for value-adding – Littleproud

By Dean Lawson

Federal Agricultural Minister David Littleproud has spoken of  Wimmera-Mallee agricultural value-adding opportunities during a quick visit to Horsham and the Wimmera.

Mr Littleproud, who inspected Horsham manufacturing firm Australian Plant Proteins this week, said the region was well placed to capitalise on global supply-chain opportunities.

He added the region was also in a good position to explore manufacturing potential based on growth in renewable-energy generation in western Victoria.

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“On a global scale, we’re high-end producers of commodities and feed about 80-million people worldwide,” he said.

“There is an opportunity to go further through the supply-chain curve with government investment partnering with entrepreneurs.

“We have identified six key areas and food and beverages is one of the six, and this is particularly relevant in Mallee. 

“The area geographically lends itself more than ever to attracting investment through the modern manufacturing program.”

Australian Plant Proteins is a prime example of agricultural value-adding, transforming Wimmera-grown pulses into high-demand protein powder.

Mr Littleproud said opportunities to tap into renewable-energy opportunities in the region were also promising.

“The biggest challenges in manufacturing are the two largest costs – wages and energy,” he said.

“What we can look at here is energy to bring competitiveness in manufacturing and that opportunity is in regional Australia. Regions such as the Mallee have the opportunity.”

Mr Littleproud also used his visit to announce details of other major funding programs that would affect the Wimmera-Mallee and toured west Wimmera areas affected by a New Year’s fire.

He met Horsham Agricultural Society officials at Horsham showground to announce $8.3-million in national funding to ease operational and rental costs for the travelling show-amusement industry.

He said the Federal Government would work with Victorian Showmen’s Guild to administer up to $7.8-million to help cover rental costs for travelling showmen and women associated with their participation at agricultural shows in 2021-22 and 2022-23 financial years.

He added that up to $500,000 would also be available for operational costs of travelling show businesses by supporting a moratorium and-or refund on showmen’s guild membership fees for 2021 and 2022.”

Mr Littleproud said showmen and women had been the ‘forgotten’ industry in the pandemic hit on communities, yet were integral to show success.

 “The past two years have been tough for many of us, but travelling businesses who visit agricultural shows have been hit very hard,” he said. 

“Because of the restrictions from COVID-19, many showmen and women have been completely deprived of their main source of income.

“These grants will help travelling showmen and women – often small, independent sole-trader or family-based operations – cover parts of their operational costs through support for guild membership fees and showground rental relief.

“More than 50,000 people volunteer in shows every year and we don’t want to lose that opportunity to showcase our communities. Showmen and women are integral to this.”

Member for Mallee Anne Webster, who joined Mr Littleproud, said the pandemic had been devastating for agricultural shows and field days.
“These shows are a feature of the regional calendar year and it is imperative to see them supported to continue these great local events well into the future,” Dr Webster said. 

“Funding for local showmen and women helps local shows to continue being successful and to boost our local economies here in Mallee.”

Mr Littleproud also announced $20-million funding for a major national assault on weeds and pest animals, a figure states and territories would match dollar-for-dollar.

He said pests and weeds posed a significant threat to Australia’s primary production, environment and biodiversity.

“Projects will reduce the overall burden of pests and weeds on-ground through activities such as co-ordinated control, destruction and removal, including trapping, baiting and culling along with biological control release,” he said.

“They will target nationally significant pest and weed species, such as feral deer, feral pigs, cats, foxes, rabbits, wild dogs and a range of invasive weeds across identified hot spots.

“This has to be based on a local approach and we have to see results where there is eradication.”

Dr Webster said the funding program would lead to significant results for Mallee farmers.

“Pest and weed management is an ongoing issue for the local agricultural and horticultural industry and this funding expansion demonstrates the commitment of the Liberal-National government towards the optimisation of our food and fibre industry,” she said.

“I welcome the commitment from my state and territory colleagues to co-invest with us to address this significant issue.”

The entire January 19, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!