Farmers desperate for Autumn rains to keep alive their cattle, flocks and crops are struggling in the dry heat of a drought which is affecting a third of NSW.
The state government announced a “drought transport fund” on Monday to assist eligible farmers pay freight costs for feed and water or to move stock to agistment.
They’ll be able to access a two-year interest and repayment-free period for loans of up to $20,000.
The NSW Rural Fire Service on Monday issued a very high fire danger warning for the Central Ranges, Southern Ranges, North Western and Greater Hunter areas as the state experienced unusually warm April temperatures.
Anto White, who runs a cattle farm with about 1100 cows in the Hunter region, says it can costs hundreds of dollars to transport just one cow to areas with enough feed.
He runs the family farm near Scone with his brother Peter and they’ve already had to sell about 900 calves and cows due to the drought.
“Farmers need more than that ($20,000) – that’s not going to help them,” Anto White said on Monday.
“For a family to survive here would need at least 200 cows.”
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair says the funding announced on Monday will assist in the better management of breeding stock to ensure a rapid recovery of herds and flocks when conditions improve.
The Hunter, Central Tablelands, Central West and the Far West regions of NSW are the areas most affected by drought, Mr Blair said in a statement.
The NSW Farmers Association has welcomed the low-interest relief package but says it’s vital the approvals are not slowed down by unnecessary administrative processes.
“It will be important these loans will be available over the long-term,” a spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.
Anto White argues longer-term the government has to build more infrastructure including dams – rather than just a one-off loan of $20,000.
“The politicians need to come and have a look at it – they don’t understand and they have no idea”.
The Bureau of Meteorology says the first three months of 2018 have been the driest first quarter since 1986.
The drought transport fund complements the wider NSW drought strategy that includes counselling and the rural resilience program.