SHADOW Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh was at McIvor Farms last Thursday to announce an election promise to local food producers and farmers’ markets.
If a Liberal Nationals government is elected in November, Mr Walsh committed to bringing back the $2 million Farmers’ Market Support Program and also to working with small food producers to cut ‘red tape’.
“An elected Liberal Nationals government will restore the successful grants program after it was quietly axed by Daniel Andrews,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Liberal Nationals are strong supporters of our small food producers and farmers’ markets because we recognise the role they play in both regional and urban communities around Victoria.
“Farmers’ markets give our producers the opportunity to sell direct to their customers and also encourage people to buy locally grown and produced food, which in turn supports Victorian jobs and businesses.”
McIvor Farms owner Belinda Hagan said any support towards farmers’ markets is a strong backing for local food producers.
“We go to six markets a month, they are a lot of work but also a lot of fun,” Mrs Hagan said.
“They give producers a chance to build that customer connection that you can get from looking a farmer in the eye and buying their product.
“We can run a successful farm but if you don’t have people buying our produce, we can’t do what we do.”
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan was also in attendance for the announcement and said she was excited by the possibility of more funding for our local producers.
“I’m really excited about this, we have a lot of artisan producers in this region and a lot of it is locally sourced, locally produced,” Ms Ryan said.
Mrs Hagan, Ms Ryan and Mr Walsh also touched on the ‘red tape’ that is restricting the way local Victorian small food producers can produce and sell their product, and in particular the difference between Victoria and New South Wales.
Due to the rules and regulations Victorian producers have to follow, Mrs Hagan said they often find themselves having to charge more.
“We have always provided our customers with healthy food, but the differences across state boundaries make it feel like we are at a competitive disadvantage in Victoria.’’
“Our small producers have a reputation for providing high quality, delicious, locally made goods but red tape is making it harder for them to do business,” Mr Walsh said.
“Labor seems intent on wrapping our small producers up in kilometres of tape.”
Ms Ryan added: “It has driven a number of them (local producers) out of business.
“It is critical we reduce the amount of red tape they are facing, we have a situation at the moment (in NSW) where it is not as onerous as in Victoria, and as a consequence that is putting our producers under pressure.’’