Drought survey reveals 'long living hell' for farmers

NSW Farmers today announced the key findings of a recent drought survey, which has captured the impacts of the current drought conditions in the Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett areas of North West NSW. 

The NSW Farmers’ survey provides an insight into conditions which have been eating away at the financial, mental, and physical fabric of producers and their supporting communities for four years.

Typically reserved producers described it as a ‘long living hell’ and ‘soul sapping’. The length and severity of the conditions have meant that even the most resilient prepared producers and communities have been brought to a point of collapse.

More than 75% of respondents in the Walgett area indicated that their business incomes have been reduced by between 75-100%, with most of these respondents indicating in further comments that they had suffered a total elimination of income. 

NSW Farmers President Fiona Simson said: “More than 75% of respondents had substantially or totally destocked their properties. More than 90% of respondents in the area who usually plant crops had been unable to do so.”

Ms Simson said NSW Farmers had clearly communicated to government that more work needs to be done to ensure that any drought assistance on offer is appropriate for current conditions, and actually reaches those that need it.

Inaccessible concessional loans with short repayment periods and high interest rates benefit no one. Instead producers need access to competitive loans with long term repayment periods and immediate assistance to help pay for fixed costs while they remain without income.

Ms Simson said NSW Farmers wanted to make sure that governments were doing everything they could to help those who were helping themselves.

“That is why we are asking government to lift the off farm income test for the Farm Household Allowance so that those in a desperate situation are not unduly penalised.

“By lifting the test, producers or their partners could pursue part-time employment and ‘to get out there and have a go’ just like the Treasurer has suggested.

“Unfortunately, the current application process is ‘horrific’ and ‘ridiculous’ according to our survey respondents,” she said.

Ms Simson concluded: “We have never supported handouts to irresponsible farm managers. But no one can prepare for a drought that lasts this long. It is about appropriate and timely relief to producers and communities experiencing what is a creeping, silent, and devastating natural disaster.”

ends

27 May 2015

Contact: Michelle Jacobs

Phone: 1300 793 000

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