Farmers in limbo

24 Jan, 2013 03:00 AM
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5
 

ISOLATED storms bucket down, giving farmers false hope of more to come, while light rain in other areas barely settles the dust, as more of NSW inches towards drought.

Last October, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) rated the Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) areas of Darling, North West, Central West, most of New England, and Mid-Coast “marginal”, adding Western, Lachlan, Central North and North Coast in December.

Only the southern part of the State – the LHPA regions of Riverina, Hume, South East, and Tablelands – is rated satisfactory.

Many in the north are questioning if “marginal” is an apt status with dams drying up, sun-crisped grass with no substance to it, and producers fast running out of decent feed and looking to put stock on the road.

But both State and federal drought policies are in limbo.

NSW Farmers policy director Angus Gidley-Baird said farmers based business decisions on existing policy and needed certainty.

“We would like some surety, if there is a new State policy, let’s see the policy. We want landholders to know what policy framework they’re operating under,” he said.

Bureau of Meteorology rainfall data indicated some areas should be drought declared based on previous assessments, but Mr Gidley-Baird added the DPI took into account factors such as season, pasture growth and temperatures.

“We are definitely hearing particularly in the Central North that it’s been the driest spring ever recorded and there’s been no decent rain since mid last year or even earlier,” Mr Gidley-Baird said.

NSW Farmers supported the transport subsidies that had previously existed, along with rural support workers.

“It’s not about saying here’s the program, here is your hand-out – farmers are thinking ‘there’s all this talk about State and national drought policy, what are they doing?’ And farmers make business decisions such as whether to destock or plant a crop on the basis of what is available.”

Central North LHPA manager Daryl Paull said producers were facing grim conditions across two-thirds of the district.

“Our recommendations were for the old Coonabarabran and Tamworth districts to carry a drought declaration but we haven’t heard back from the DPI,” Mr Paull said.

“There’s not a lot of feed about and we are getting increased inquiries for travelling stock routes and public roads in the past four weeks, even though without the moisture there’s no growth anywhere.

“The only downfall of a drought declaration from a landholder’s perspective is that because we haven’t been affected for some time, there would be a qualifying period for subsidies so people would have to wait six months for assistance, it’s almost too late by the time that occurs,” Mr Paull said.

Darling LPHA senior ranger Colin Betts said high January temperatures would tip the district into drought status in February.

“Things are right on the edge now, and in the west all the little rivers have dried up – the Darling is very low. There’s been isolated rain but a hell of a lot more is needed,” he said.

Lachlan LHPA ranger Craig Ridley said unless there was significant rain before the end of January the district would need to be re-assessed.

“You could bog a duck here last March and now people are carting domestic water to fill their tanks,” he said.

Likewise, Western LHPA ranger Tim Wall said if conditions did not change, the district would return to drought.

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READER COMMENTS

Ian Mott
24/01/2013 9:28:52 AM, on The Land

Great bit of fluff, pity about the monsoon punching its way down the continent. As it always does this time of year. Predicting drought in the third week in January is a pretty good way to trash your credibility.
Hick from the Sticks
24/01/2013 12:37:52 PM, on The Land

Yes it's a dry summer and yes it was an ordinary spring preceding it but not every summer is like the last two. If you are running livestock and you can't handle five dry months without drought assistance it's time to consider another career.
gough whitlam
28/01/2013 5:05:09 PM, on The Land

Don't despair all you cockies. The taxpayer will come to the rescue with more EC and transport subsidies. You must keep up the payments of the Land Cruiser and the kids college. Nothing like a bit of socialism to save them.
ando
29/01/2013 8:08:29 AM, on The Land

The only reason some farmers can access EC is because you introduced it Gough!
Ian Mott
29/01/2013 10:52:53 AM, on The Land

Five days later and my place got 716 mm to 9.00am this morning. Some drought eh? Not to mention the 9.3 metres of drought up on the Burnett that even exceeds the 1892 flood. All of my 716mm landed on a saturated catchment but the NSW EPA expects us to believe our average runoff is only 190mm. And in an extraordinary act of generosity, they allow us an as-of-right on farm storage capacity of just 19mm, or just 0.19 megalitres per hectare of land. It actually makes sense to a callously indifferent green metromoron.

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