Farmer outlines drought problem

WALCHA grazier Stuart Blake was just one primary producer from the tablelands who had the chance yesterday to tell new state drought co-ordinator Tim Johnston just what’s going on in the bush when it comes to the drought.

Mr Blake outlined to the new Local Land Services executive and to Northern Tablelands MP just how dire things are. 

The former NSW Young Farmer of the Year, like many graziers in the region, is using an allotted block on the travelling stock route to graze his cattle.

He’s droving 500 of his wagyu breeders on the block.

“We’ve implemented all our drought-proofing strategies, we weaned stock early, we’ve sold surplus sheep and we are now working on trying to keep our breeding stock alive,” Mr Blake said.

“Despite doing everything we can, the dry conditions are as tough as we’ve seen them and I’m worried it’ll soon be too much for us.

“Fortunately there is still some feed to be had, but it has to come from Victoria and South Australia and the freight charges are crippling.

“We’d really like some assistance from the government, to help with freight charges to keep us going.”

MP Marshall said Mr Blake’s story was a recurring one across the electorate, with farmers facing some of the worst conditions in living memory.

He hopes the two-day tour undertaken by the drought co-ordinator will be the catalyst for making support available to local primary producers, particularly freight subsidies.

“Seasonal conditions are currently deteriorating faster than anyone could have expected in a number of regions across NSW and it’s abundantly clear that conditions across the Northern Tablelands are dire, with virtually all farmers now just trying to hold onto their core breeding stock,” Mr Marshall said.

“Sadly, given the outlook, things are going to get much worse before they get better and that’s why I was so keen to have Tim visit and undertake his assessment, which will be handed to the government with recommendations for assistance as soon as possible.

“Fodder is now being brought in from interstate at enormous expense. On top of that, a lot of property owners are running out of water – we talked to one grazier who has just bought 6km of poly pipe so he can run water to a paddock to keep his breeders alive.” 

Mr Johnston’s visit was co-ordinated by the Northern Tablelands LLS, following a request by Mr Marshall for an on-ground assessment of conditions, which have exceeded the independent Regional Assistance Advisory Committee’s (RAAC) rainfall, soil moisture and pasture growth trigger points.

Mr Marshall said it was critical the RAAC and government received a first-hand report on conditions to have a “complete and clear” understanding of what is now one of the worst droughts in 40 years for the Northern Tablelands.

“This is not about farmers putting their hands up when things get tough – these people are good managers and have done everything possible to prepare and reduce the impacts, but nothing they do can stave off these dry conditions,” he said.

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