FARMERS and grain transporters are avoiding certain sections of roads due to safety concerns as the damage bill to the nation's road network from the spring loading continues to grow.
"There are roads we would normally use that we are avoiding until some repairs take place," said northern Wimmera farmer Ross Johns, Warracknabeal.
"I've got a duty of care to workers on my place and at present these roads are not safe to use," Mr Johns, a former Victorian Farmers Federation grains group president, said.
"It's not just transporting the grain its getting access to the paddocks, it can be dangerous even just in utes let alone trucks," he said.
He said there was widespread damage across both local and major roads that was making moving this year's harvest difficult.
"We have a failed road network at present that is not fit for purpose, we are obliged to keep our vehicles roadworthy yet we're facing conditions that quickly mean the vehicles fall below that standard."
Government at all three levels, local, state and federal are feverishly working on repairs to the worst damage to allow roads to remain open however the task is enormous and necessary resources, such as gravel, are in short supply due to flooding of pits.
This work is generally only urgent repair, rather than the long-term resurfacing needed to shore up the roads for the future.
Mr Johns said a two-fold approach was necessary.
"We need the patch-up jobs to take place now to allow us to get through the harvest period without major incidents, then we need to get serious about looking at the l work that will be needed to have our roads in better condition for the long term."
The issue of roads is dominating discussions among the grain grower community at its busiest time of year, with some farmers forced to store grain on-farm due to a lack of road access to bulk handling sites.
Lobby group GrainGrowers said it was keeping the heat on the federal government for urgent funding for key freight access routes.
GrainGrowers chair Rhys Turton said the flood damage exposed systemic underfunding in the road network.
"An efficient rural road network is critical for protecting Australia's $13 billion grain industry and the broader Australian economy, but we are increasingly seeing growers unable even to access their paddocks to harvest their grain because the roads are so damaged," Mr Turton said.
At the critical 'first kilometre' local level he said rural councils were struggling to keep up with maintenance prior to the loads.
"Many rural councils are struggling to maintain their road networks even before the recent flooding," he said.
"To have a situation where councils say they may be forced to close flood-impacted local roads because they cannot afford repairs is unacceptable."
Nationally he said immediate action was also needed to address the rapid deterioration in critical sections of the nationally significant road network, including the Hume, Newell, Calder, and Western Highways that connect grain to important domestic and international markets.
The repair job will be huge.
AAP reported that over 82,000 roads have officially been damaged by recent flooding, with over 6400 road closures.
There are still critical freight routes through Victoria's Murray Valley and the Newell Highway in NSW that are closed.
Grain Producers Australia chief executive Colin Bettles encouraged grain producers to contact his organisation to help GPA prepare a submission to government on the matter.
"They'll have a story to tell about how we got here due to gradual deterioration or neglect - not just the recent proliferation of potholes - and some firm advice on where we need to go in future," Mr Bettles said.