MILLEWA WOES: Millewa farmer Ian Arney shows Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews the light crop grown on 45mm of seasonal rainfall during his October visit to the region, amazingly some farmers have had some harvestable crops. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

WHILE it’s pretty much a bleak picture everywhere you look in the Millewa, amazingly, despite the acute lack of rain, there are some slight glimmers of light, with some farmer’s paddocks yielding harvestable grain crops.

For those cockies with a crop, the harvest is well under way, if not already finished, while for those with nothing, the feeling of desperation continues, and until it rains, the future is as uncertain as it has ever been.  

Millewa farmer Ian Arney, whose own crop hasn’t been worth harvesting, has been at the forefront of efforts to get some relief for his community, and told the Mildura Weekly that he had spoken with a few farmers who’d been harvesting what little crops they had.

“One farmer I spoke to said he had grown a crop on 61mm of rain for the season and looked like he would yield 0.7 tonnes of wheat to the hectare, and it actually looked better than that,” Mr Arney said.

“He was quite happy with that and I would be too. I think it’s an excellent result given the small amount of rainfall.

“There are others around, including Yarrara farmer Ron Hards, who had crops go 1.36 tonne, 0.2, and 0.3 tonne to the hectare down to nothing – that’s on about 65mm of growing season rainfall, so achieving those outcomes is a great result.”

When Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews visited in early October, the crop that Mr Arney showed him had been grown on 45mm of rain, something that amazed the Premier.

“The crop that the Premier and I looked at, I went out to harvest that today, and after harvesting for about 20 minutes, I stopped and let the sheep in – they can have it now – it’s not worth the effort of harvesting,” Mr Arney said.

The further south you go from the Millewa, the better things get. Mr Arney said he knows of one family that have a crop on a lease-farm near the Sunset Country, and they yielded eight bags to the acre.

“It’s mind-boggling. They’ve grown that on about 100mm, which is a very good result. It’s all to do with rainfall, and we really don’t need too much,” he said.

The Millewa community has achieved their wish regarding Mildura Rural City Council directing $670,000 in State Government drought relief funding toward rate abatement for farmers (See Page 3).

In addition to that assistance, farmers need cash flow now, particularly to purchase seed to plant in anticipation of rain falling next season. 

Mr Arney said that the mood of the Millewa community is still fairly sombre.

“People are aware of the situation we are in and there have been a lot of offers of assistance, it’s just a matter of how we get that to hit the ground and provide benefit to those who are in need of it,” he said.

“A lot of people have been doing a lot of good volunteering work and we’ve had some hay donated, as well as charities who have provided food hampers and cash to those who really need it, and that has put a smile on people’s faces.

“Just knowing that people care about their plight is really reassuring and does make a difference and it’s hard to quantify how important that is to people – it means a lot.”

Mr Arney said that the community had been fortunate to have had some terrific donations, for which it is very grateful. 

“There have been a few significant cash donations, which have made a huge difference to some individuals, apart form the phycological benefit which is huge, I don’t know how you put a value on that. To know that people are caring and thinking about you is just amazing, and they are very grateful for that,” he said.

“The feeling and the personal benefit is really difficult to describe. To know that one person – and goodness knows where they are from – is caring about you a thousand kilometres away or further, is just an amazing feeling.”