Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Farmers get together in Benalla

Benalla Rural City is hosting an inaugural farming forum.

MONIQUE FREER February 26, 2014 4:10am

Reaching out: Benalla Rural City rural outreach worker Ivan Lister and sheep farmer Frank Livingston are looking forward to the inaugural farming forum.

Wellbeing, mental health, farming diversity and succession planning are among some of the hot topics being discussed at Benalla Rural City’s inaugural farming forum tonight.

The event has been instigated by a group of farmers and rural community members in Benalla and district, who are determined to encourage hope and hard thinking in the face of a rapidly changing agricultural industry.

Benalla Rural City rural outreach worker Ivan Lister said the forum was an opportunity to bring farmers together to discuss the challenges they faced.

‘‘I keep hearing the same thing from farm to farm — it’s a daily struggle to make money, stay viable,’’ Mr Lister said.

‘‘They feel like they don’t have a voice.’’

Mr Lister said the impact of change and uncertainty in modern farming was having a huge impact on farmers’ health, many of whom were well into their 60s and doggedly independent.

‘‘People are isolated, they lack confidence, they feel like they are on the edge,’’ he said.

Organised by the community, the forum will bring people together to hear experts from different sectors of the industry, as well as a question and answer session addressing a variety of issues.

Guest speakers and panellists include Meat and Livestock Australia chief economist Tim McCrae, Australian grazing industry expert Brian Cummins, Voice for Indi president Alana Johnson, agronomists, representatives from Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Benalla Health and Landcare, as well as local farmers. Popular actor and entertainer John Walker —best known for his role in Channel 7’s Full Frontal — will host the question and answer session.

Organising committee member Laurie Horne said the forum would help farmers understand their options.

‘‘They are sometimes hesitant to explore their options, and it’s hard to get motivated (to do that) when you aren’t getting any joy from what you’re doing,’’ Mr Horne said.

Benalla sheep farmer Frank Livingston said the evening was a good opportunity to catch up with a people going through similar experiences.

‘‘It’s trying to get them (farmers) to go out,’’ Mr Livingston said.

‘‘We’re all the same.’’

Benalla Rural City Mayor Barbara Alexander said many farmers were dealing with overwhelming challenges at all levels of their businesses.

‘‘This forum will give the farmers an opportunity to get together, share their stories and realise that they aren’t on their own,’’ Cr Alexander said.

‘‘Hopefully they will also have a chance to brainstorm some solutions for remaining sustainable into the future.’’

The forum has been developed in partnership with the Benalla Rural City Council, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, with support from Meat and Livestock Australia, Landmark Industries, Peter Davis Rural, NAB Agribusiness, GeckoClan Landcare group, Rotary Club of Benalla, Rose City Veterinary Clinic, Benalla Health, and State Member for Benalla Bill Sykes.

The forum will be held tonight at 5pm at Benalla Lakeside Community Centre. For more information or to register attendance, phone 57602635 or 57602632.

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