WITH every single square kilometre of the Northern Tablelands now drought affected, it’s MP Adam Marshall is speaking out and calling on his government to do more.
Despite the government’s resistance, he said freight subsidies were “a must”. It’s a bold move by the Tourism Minister, as party protocol requires all ministers to publicly support the government’s policies.
However, Mr Marshall said the current model of assistance was “no longer sustainable”, given state was facing a drought “unlike anything many have seen before”.
“I’ve spoken with just about every expert and experienced farmers in our region and I’m really worried because I know that conditions are going to get a lot worse before they get better,” he said.
“We’re all in dangerous territory now – and that’s why I’m calling on state and federal governments to act now, step up and provide more assistance to our farmers immediately.
“The reintroduction of freight subsidies is a must – everyone is talking to me about (the fact) that conditions have dramatically worsened and they are right.
“A reduction or temporary suspension of government department - including Local Lands Services - rates, fees and charges would help a lot too.”
Mr Marshall said it was also time to think outside the box, and suggested the NSW government create a fodder network to help farmers source feed, which was becoming increasing expensive and difficult to find.
“Almost all the state’s fodder reserves have been depleted, and pretty soon, there’ll be nothing left on the eastern seaboard,” Mr Marshall said.
“Perhaps there is a way to bring over fodder from Western Australia and other states in bulk to NSW and create a distribution network for NSW farmers.”
“Let’s get the hay and other feedstock closer to those in drought so they can actually use the funds we’ve put on the table to get more than just one truckload of hay at a time.
“Yes, it’s unprecedented, but so is the severity of this drought.”
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Marshall’s tours local farms
Over the weekend Adam Marshall spend time touring properties around Inverell and Glen Innes, and hearing the heartbreaking stories of farmers and their families
“For me, it brought back vivid and terrible childhood memories of the drought in the early 1990s when, on the land near Curlewis, I remember helping my father handfeed cattle every day for what seemed like years,” MR Marshall said.
“Then came the horrifying moments, when poor stock had to be shot, dragged off and buried.
“Those were tough times, but the current drought is far, far worse and people in our region and right across the state need more help – from governments, banks and anywhere they can get it.
Many old timers have told me over the last few weeks that this is the worst drought they have ever lived through, and I can believe that. Bringing in cotton seed, hay and other feedstock is now getting more and more expensive, prohibitive in some cases, as it has to be sourced now from South Australia and even further.”
Mr Marshall it wasn't just graziers that feeling the squeeze, with most croppers missing their planting windows, and local businesses that supply and rely on the agriculture sector starting to feel the pinch too.
“The knock-on effect is obvious,” he said.
“Grain products not only make up the staple Australian diet but are used to feed livestock. A shortage will cause grain prices to soar and stress every single agricultural industry.
“This issue, this desperate and debilitating drought, is a personal one for me and I’ll do everything I possibly can over the coming days and weeks to get extra support for our farmers – and I ask everyone to help me in that cause and help those who are doing it hard.”