Farmers facing a tough winter as new support measures announced

The state government has announced more support for drought-stricken farmers and towns

National News
HAY RELIEF: Some of the hay that the Need For Feed Disaster Relief convoy trucked to drought-stricken farms near Moree.

HAY RELIEF: Some of the hay that the Need For Feed Disaster Relief convoy trucked to drought-stricken farms near Moree.

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"There's nothing there". The hay run to desert-like paddocks.

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"There's nothing here."

Those three words sum up the unimaginable challenge farmers around drought-stricken Moree are still facing.

They are at the beginning of yet another winter and the paddocks are barren for kilometres.

Some crops, planted by optimistic farmers, have popped out of the earth but the lack of soil moisture has left them without enough energy to grow.

The scene was a shock for the Need For Feed Disaster Relief convoy who took 15 truck loads of hay to more than 50 farmers around Moree over the long weekend.

They knew the drought was bad, but being there put the circumstances on an entirely new level.

It was clear that sporadic rainfall had left farmers on the eastern side of Moree fairing even worse than others in the area.

Logistics coordinator Cassandra McLaren said farmers were so grateful for the assistance.

"They are relieved that finally they are getting some assistance and they are incredibly thankful," she said.

"They are still doing it tough and they have a tough winter to get through yet."

The convoy unfortunately came too late for some, who had already been forced to sell all of their animals. The fight against the drought became too much.

"In ringing the farmers for this run many have told us they have already completely destocked," she said.

"The ones who still have livestock are down to core breeding stock and many are looking at destocking further in the next few weeks.

"We've seen a lot of barren paddocks and not a lot of stock, one of the truck drivers saw dead stock in the paddock and some stock in good condition.

"There is a green tinge in some parts, where they had rain earlier last week, there is some low lying scrub but that's not suitable to eat. There's nothing here."

The state government has unveiled its new drought support plan for farmers and drought-stricken communities. The measures will be included in this month's state budget.

The government has allocated $185 million to spend on on-farm support, including $70 million for transport subsidies for stock, fodder and water; $50 million to waive Local Land Services rates; $30 million to waive fixed charges for NSW Water Licences; $15 million for emergency water carting; and $10 million to waive interest charges for Farm Innovation Fund loans.

A special purpose Drought Infrastructure Package, worth $170 million, will also be created.

This will include spending up to $120 million on fast-tracking major infrastructure projects.

Some communities struggling with a dwindling water supply - due to one of the worst droughts in living memory, will benefit from the state government's latest response.

It will spend $30 million on a new groundwater supply for Dubbo; $8.2 million to construct a second water storage west of Dubbo at Nyngan, $2.2 million to augment bore water supply at Coonabarabran; $2 million for critical maintenance to the Albert Priest Channel, which impacts Nyngan and Cobar; and $1.97 million towards the Coolamon Industrial Estate development.

These are some of the worst-hit communities in the state.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said paying for town water projects, and shovel-ready infrastructure projects would help to keep the economy in drought-stricken towns rolling.

"The impact of this drought has spread quickly off farm and is now being felt by businesses and households in towns and cities across regional NSW," she said.

Maitland Mercury

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