Tuesday, 29 May 2018
LOCAL State MP Adam Marshall has high hopes that calls for new drought assistance for farmers will see some new government approaches that could help with transport subsidies to relieve the crippling lack of feed.
Mr Marshall reported on quickly deteriorating conditions in the region during a speech on the floor of NSW Parliament last week.
Mr Marshall said the handout mentality was long gone when it came to farm assistance measures but the issue of freight subsidies for trucking in fodder and grain to feed New England livestock is now critical.
“Farmers across this region and right across the state where the drought is having an incredible effect are telling me we have to reconsider additional drought assistance measures,” Mr Marshall said.
“There’s a huge cost in trucking in hay and grain from hundreds of kilometres away and that’s now where I think our government assistance has to be targeted.
“Feed is scarce now across NSW and some local farmers are sourcing fodder as far as South Australia now.”
“That’s the critical issue right now and I am hopeful the government will reconsider freight subsidies and rebates as a reasonable step – and the right thing to do.”
Mr Marshall has stepped up his campaign for a re-think on drought measures in the short term but has also called for a top-up to the Farm Innovation Fund to enable farmers to upgrade and install new water infrastructure on their properties to make them more drought-resistant in the future.
“I informed the House last week of the impact of the big dry – parts of the Northern Tablelands are in drought and others on the cusp. Some farmers are seeing conditions as bad as any in the past 30 years,” Mr Marshall said.
“Some areas haven’t had rain for five months and other parts have only had a patchy shower or two. It’s getting worse and while we can’t make it rain, we can at least work to better drought-proof the farm sector, both in the short term and the long term.
“Farmers are already stressed but I’ve had more and more calls from people who are finding the process of applying for assistance difficult, onerous and confusing. People are bounced between multiple websites, and farmers are required to already be receiving Federal help, or to be essentially all but broke, before they can tap into some of the support on the table.”
Mr Marshall said the NSW Government currently had available the Drought Transport Fund, where farmers can apply for a low-interest loan of up to $20,000 to covers costs associated with the transport of fodder, stock or water. The Animal Welfare Subsidy is also available to cover up to 50 per cent of the costs up to $20,000 involved in transporting stock to market when their fat scores dip to low levels. Farmers are also able to access up to $250,000 in concessional loans to engage in capital works to better drought proof their properties.
“Drought is an inevitable part of farming, every farmer knows that, but while there are fantastic packages on the table to help farmers improve on farm infrastructure when times are good, feed reserves can only last so long,” he said.
“The outlook for rain is problematic but already winter has set in across the high country of the tablelands and there’s no growth for feed even if we do get some wet stuff soon. It’s going to be a long cold winter and reconsidering a further assistance package for farmers is essential.”
Mr Marshall told the House last week that tablelands farmers were resilient and innovative; diversifying their income streams on-farm, expanding breeding programs to include hardier genetics, and improving infrastructure – but despite all of those factors, they’re not rain-makers.
He said drought conditions were spreading and he believed that if weather conditions didn’t improve then the entire Northern Tablelands would reach soil moisture levels so low as to be officially declared in drought within weeks.