Concerns ignored at community meeting

A meeting between farmers and Viterra at Eudunda on Friday afternoon has been described as an obituary for silos in the Southern Goyder region by attendees.

The meeting came to fruition following the grain handling business' controversial decision to close silos at Robertstown and bunkers at Eudunda.

Farmers were notified of the closures via an email in May and a meeting was called at the site of the Robertstown silo in protest.

Robertstown was one of 17 sites across South Australia and Victoria that would close - 11 of which had not been open for more than a year, while six were open last year.

More than 70 farmers from Robertstown, Eudunda and surrounding areas were in attendance at Eudunda Clubhouse as they were given the opportunity to voice their concerns regarding the closures.

Operations managers Michael Hill and Jack Tansley represented Viterra.

Mr Hill said that the decision had been made "looking to the future," with drivers bypassing smaller sites in favour of larger sites who take 90 percent of total receivals.

"The decisions have not been easy ones but had to be made based on a range of factors and information that we had," he said.

Eudunda, Saddleworth and Roseworthy are the closest delivery options following the closure of Robertstown.

Mr Tansely, central region operations manager, said that a 50,000 tonne storage capacity was being built at Roseworthy.

Plans were in place to extend operating hours at Roseworthy for this year's harvest to up 17 hours a day.

Viterra planned to overflow from Eudunda this year and work alongside the Eudunda Silo Committee.

Robertstown farmer Simon Niemz, who organised the meeting alongside brother Aaron, questioned Viterra's commitment to keeping Eudunda open given their focus on larger sites in the state.

Mr Hill said that it would remain open but did not rule out a closure in the long term as the company reevaluated their footprint in the future.

Asked about their target turnaround time at Roseworthy, Mr Tansley was met with laughter from the crowd when he mentioned half an hour as an expected time frame.

But grain growers continued their fight saying bumper crop years would not cope with the demand of extra freight and grain despite battling drought in recent years.

Adrian Schmidt from Robertstown dismissed this goal, mentioning that he had experienced wait times of up to six hours in past years.

Farmers from the Riverland, such as Waikerie, who rely on Robertstown facilities especially during bumper season will be forced to cart elsewhere.

Of particular concern was the increased travel time for drivers needing to cart over an hour away and the road safety risk this posed.

Simon Schmidt asked the Viterra representatives "what price do you put on someone's life," with longer days and more trucks on rural roads expected.

"I know my minimum turnaround to go to Roseworthy is going to be five hours and that is if I can get in and out in half an hour," he said.

"You can look in the room here and see how many people are concerned, and I am really worried.

"Who is going to take the responsibility?"

His concerns were met with a round of applause however Mr Hill remarked that the condition of the roads was not Viterra's responsibility.

The meeting lasted close to two hours with many farmers left feeling disappointed with the lack of an outcome, which one farmer described as like "talking to a brick wall."

Mr Hill maintained that Viterra's investment continued to remain focused on its larger sites where it can provide the highest level of service to growers.