Only time will tell if the NSW government’s drought relief measures will be enough to carry farmers through the devastating dry spell affecting 99 per cent of the state, one grazier says.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday announced an extra $500 million in drought support – including $190 million in transport subsidies – taking the total package to $1 billion.
The transport subsidy is available for up to 50 per cent of the cost of moving stock, food and water.
It will be capped at $20,000 per farm business.
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The coalition has been under pressure to do more for battling farmers with 99 per cent of NSW officially in drought.
“Conditions are now so dire that further support is needed to address the more immediate needs for farmers and their communities until the drought breaks,” Ms Berejiklian said in a statement on Monday.
Below average rainfall since April 2017 has been exacerbated by warm, dry weather, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
September 2017 was the driest September on record, compared with the previous year, which was the wettest September, bureau senior climatologist Agata Imielska said.
Ms Imielska said the three-month outlook to October wasn’t much better for farmers, with more warm and dry conditions predicted, with parts of NSW already experiencing less than one per cent soil moisture content.
Walcha cattle and sheep farmer Sonia O’Keefe welcomed the new relief measures but says they aren’t a “silver bullet”.
“Only time will tell, we don’t know how long this drought is going to go on for,” Ms O’Keefe told AAP.
“If this goes on for another six months things will be getting very desperate.”
Ms O’Keefe, a member of the NSW Farmers rural affairs committee, said they’ve reduced sheep and cattle numbers by 20 per cent due to the drought but the real test will come after it breaks.
“The impact that it has, depending on how long the drought goes and how much further we have to de-stock, is our ability to recover when it breaks,” she said.
“We need to be able to maintain a breeding stock so that when the drought breaks we can make the most profit we can from the following good season.”
The premier came face to face with drought-affected graziers at the NSW Farmers annual conference in Sydney last Wednesday.
AAP understands the $500 million boost to the drought package was then overwhelmingly agreed by cabinet on Thursday after being raised as a matter of urgency.
The Nationals on Friday agreed to not run a candidate in the upcoming Wagga Wagga by-election following the resignation of disgraced Liberal MP Daryl Maguire amid a corruption scandal.
News Corp Australia reports drought relief was raised during negotiations between the coalition partners over which party should run in Wagga to avoid a three-cornered contest with Labor.
The relief measures will also cut the cost of farming fees and charges by waiving land services rates and water charges.
The package will be back-dated to the beginning of 2018, the government says.