Att: Tony Burke, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry (Re: Drought in Central West NSW)
I refer to my first letter to you, dated December 8, 2009. It is with relief I report good falls of rain in our drought-ravaged region, with 125 mm to over 250 mm rainfall over the past couple of weeks. I believe this to be a promising start to the New Year, but there is now much to do on the farm.
A “drought” by definition is a prolonged absence of rain, and I don’t think there is any room for interpretation that we have been in the grip of one of the most severe droughts for the bulk of 2009, as well as general low rainfall and drought periods prior to this. I wish to draw a distinction between a “drought” and a “recovery period”, which is the time needed to reverse the effects of a drought. This can take many years when taking into account the detrimental effects on the land and environment.
The shorter-term effects however are:
- Replenishment of feed stores (hay, grain and other fodder reserves)
- Restoration of financial security (generate operating cash and service loans)
- Mental and physical well-being (reduce stress, incorporate some R&R)
Farmers are a strong, proud and resilient group of hard-working individuals willing to work long hours, sometimes with little financial reward or even holidays. With the recent falls of rain, farmers everywhere are now focusing to rebuild their farms and lives, and prove they have earned their right to be on the land for the long term.
Planting feed crops, preparing winter fallows and purchasing stock will now be the priority, and come Monday 4th January, I can promise you the business houses across NSW will be bracing themselves for the onslaught. I wonder how many of them will be able to pay for it? Without some urgent financial help (EC), the “recovery period” will be in jeopardy, and businesses and lending institutions will be under extreme pressure deciding if they can continue to supply cash to farmers.
Furthermore, the producers making plans to purchase stock and sow crops cannot expect any return on their cash outlay until the end of November at the earliest, and that is only if the climate is conducive to reasonable production. I understand the Government’s “Climate Change Adjustment Policy” (implemented over 12 months ago) and how this relates to assistance packages like EC, but we need to be sure farmers are in a position to make the change into this new policy direction. This is what went wrong in early 2009 when EC was removed whilst still in early “recovery”.
If we are to “dig our way out” of this drought and maximise this fantastic rainfall event, my request the Federal Government as a short-term measure, is to recognise the farmer’s need for urgent operating cash, and reinstate the EC from 30th March 2009 to 30th November 2010 minimum (20 months), to serve as our “recovery period”.