Drought support way behind eastern States: SAFF

AUSTRALIA - The South Australian Farmers’ Federation (SAFF) says assistance provided by eastern States governments to their farmers during the drought makes a mockery of the South Australian Government’s response.
calendar icon 20 March 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

SAFF Agribusiness Committee Chairman John Ratcliff said that at a recent meeting of the National Farmers’ Federation’s Farm Business and Economics Committee in Canberra, it became clear that SA was lagging far behind NSW and Queensland.

“SA is seen as not being adequately prepared for the situation we’re facing,” Mr Ratcliff said.

He reiterated the Federation’s call for financial support from the SA Government for farmers to get feed and water to breeding livestock or to enable transport to agistment. He said such a program would also help to take some of the grazing pressure off the land.

So far, SA Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister Rory McEwen has been resolute in his opposition to introducing any kind of subsidised transport program, claiming that it would be of little help to graziers and would distort the market.

“There are estimates that this drought will take more than $1 billion out of the State economy,” Mr Ratcliff said.

“What we are asking for is grants capped at $10,000 for eligible primary producers in the Exceptional Circumstances-declared areas. These are not hand-outs, but an investment in the future of agriculture in South Australia.

“The economics are simple – if producers can retain their breeding stock, they won’t have to start from scratch to build up genetics. As a result their productive contribution to the SA economy will resume much sooner once the drought breaks.”

The New South Wales Government provides a 100% subsidy for transporting donated fodder and a 50% subsidy on the cost of transporting fodder, water or stock to and from agistment, or stock to sale or slaughter. The program is capped at $20,000 per producer per year.

Information obtained by SAFF shows that the NSW Department of Primary Industries is currently receiving about 700 applications per week for transport assistance, clearly demonstrating a strong demand for the program.

The Queensland Government provides a 50% subsidy or 13c/tonne/km (whichever is less) for transport of fodder, stock drinking water, livestock returning from agistment and restocking post-drought. The program is initially capped at $20,000 per producer per year, and can be as much as $40,000 in third and subsequent drought years.

Other states offer similar programs. Victoria is the only other mainland state not offering support for freighting fodder and water.

Mr Ratcliff said a classic example of the inequity of the drought response between the states was that farmers in the Broken Hill pastoral region were eligible for freight subsidies from the NSW Government while their near neighbours in SA’s north eastern pastoral region received nothing.

“The drought doesn’t respect borders, so I think what’s good for NSW and Queensland is good for us too,” he said.

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