Western NSW drought hitting critical point

Beef Central, 22/10/2013

Farmers living in western NSW around Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett have been preparing and actively making decisions to mitigate drought for more than 12 months but have now reached a critical point, NSW Farmers Association has warned.

As part of its ongoing efforts to highlight the current situation and to gather evidence about decisions farmers are making, NSW Farmers said it contacted farmers in these areas in early October. The information collated has revealed that almost all had destocked with herd levels now right down to core breeding stock.

NSW Farmers Western Division spokesperson Wayne Newton said farmers had decided to sell stock or send them away on agistment but with the north of the state becoming increasingly dry, agistment was becoming more difficult to obtain.

He said with very little decent rain since February 2012, many farmers in cropping areas had taken the decision not to sow crops or to sow less than normal.

“For those who did sow, many have grazed their crops out to help sustain livestock,” Mr Newton said.

“Some farmers have no water for their household and domestic needs and are carting in water.”

Calls made by NSW Farmers to drought affected farmers revealed that the average spend on the drought to date was approximately $150,000 per farmer most of which was being spent on feed and transport.

The information gathered by the association has been passed onto the Regional Assistance Advisory Committee, the Minister’s office and service providers in the region.

Earlier in the year, NSW Farmers wrote to Minister Hodgkinson, Minister Humphries and Troy Grant as the Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources about seasonal conditions. The association has also regularly raised the matter with the Regional Assistance Advisory Committee which reports to the minister.

Mr Newton said that farming was about managing the risks of the climate including during dry times and during a drought.

“Our climate is unpredictable which is why farmers are always looking at ways to prepare for the unexpected. Sometimes you can do all you can but at the end of the day, you can’t make it rain,” he said

Bourke’s average annual rainfall is 354mm but it has only received 170mm in the past 12 months, Walgett’s average is 479mm but it has only received 228mm and Sydney’s average is 1215mm but by comparison it has received 1205mm.

Members of the NSW Regional Assistance Advisory Committee (RAAC) have kicked off a three-day visit to the State’s North West today to assess the worsening conditions.

RAAC Chair, David Palmer, NSW Rural Assistance Authority acting general manager, John Newcombe, and committee member, Bourke Rural Financial Counsellor
Sharon Knight, are using the tour to gain a better understanding of the on-ground situation.

“I am acutely aware of the precarious situation facing North West primary producers as a result of the deteriorating seasonal conditions,” NSW primary industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson said in announcing the tour yesterday.

“This is a timely fact-finding trip for the RAAC members to see the situation on the ground and to hear from the locals, and then to report back to me with feedback and advice on appropriate
support programs.

“This is clearly a tough situation for producers and getting worse each day without rain.”

Mr Palmer said RAAC has been overseeing the preparation of monthly Regional Seasonal Conditions Reports, which focus on farm management preparedness and resilience.

“The Department of Primary Industries seasonal conditions report for September highlighted the dry and deteriorating situation in the North West – following on from the tenth-driest August on
record and the eighth-warmest.

“During September, NSW received about 80 per cent of average rainfall, however, the Far West, North West and Mid North Coast received less than 25mm rainfall.

“Crop yields have been affected by poor rainfall in the North West, pasture growth has declined and in some cases stock water supplies are very low.

“Importantly, this tour is about listening. I want to meet with primary producers on the ground, gather their firsthand advice and provide that advice direct to the Minister.”

  • Sources: NSW Farmers/NSW DPI. For information about meeting locations, contact the NSW Rural Assistance Authority on 02 6391 3023. 


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