2 October 2019

Southern farmers 'absolutely gutted' by drought support slap down

| Ian Campbell
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Ashleigh and X Rood with poddy calves on their dairy farm

Ashleigh and Michael Rood with poddy calves on their Bega Valley dairy farm during greener times. Photo: Supplied.

Farmers have taken to looking after their own in the face of a Federal Government slap down for South East NSW.

“I am extremely disappointed,” says Ashleigh Rood, from the Far South Coast Dairy Development Group.

“I am absolutely gutted we didn’t get looked at.”

Ms Rood is reflecting on the Morrison Government’s $100 million drought support package announced at the weekend.

The funding has since been called into question when it was revealed Moyne Shire in Victoria was set to drought assistance money despite elected council representatives saying the funding is not needed.

“We’re not drought-affected. We don’t need the money for drought reasons and I believe it should be redirected to more deserving areas of Australia,” farmer and Moyne councillor Colin Ryan told the ABC.

Locally, Labor’s Mike Kelly and Fiona Phillips have suggested the package is preferencing Coalition seats like Wannon which takes in Moyne Shire, over opposition-held seats like Eden-Monaro and Gilmore.

“According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries, there are three local government areas in Eden-Monaro currently in drought – Yass Valley, Queanbeyan and Palerang, and the Snowy Monaro,” Member for Eden-Monaro Dr Kelly says.

“For six years the government’s ad hoc, inadequate and piecemeal response to the drought has been left wanting. Anger in rural communities is understandably on the rise.”

Gilmore MP Fiona Phillips labelled the decision heartless and tone-deaf.

“I am shocked that the government has told farmers in the Kiama, Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla council areas that they don’t deserve drought assistance,” Ms Kelly says.

“Our dairy farmers are being paid less than the cost of producing their milk, but the Prime Minister continually ignores their pleas for help.

“Today I will be writing to the Prime Minister and the Minister to ask them to reverse this cruel decision and provide farmers on the South Coast with the support they so desperately need,” Ms Phillips says.

Drought Minister David Littleproud has launched an audit of the information and systems used to prioritise the drought funding.

NSW Drought Map, October 2019

NSW Drought Map, October 2019. Image: NSW DPI.

But Far South Coast farmers aren’t waiting for the political tide to turn and have launched a feed run to help struggling locals.

“We want to give hope to farmers, we want them to know we’ve got your back,” Ms Rood says.

Ms Rood and the Bega Valley dairy enterprises she runs with her husband are toughing it out. When I call she is in the office, “working out who can get paid and who can’t”.

“It’s bloody tough, you can’t just go to bed at night and put that day behind you because when you wake up it’s all there again.”

While grateful for the government assistance that is flowing into the region in the form of freight subsidises, for Ms Rood and the farming community she represents, there is a sense of hurt and frustration in the news around funding for the Moyne Shire.

“Going months without rain and feeding stock everyday eats away at your soul,” she says.

The Far South Coast Dairy Development Group is moving beyond that and helping coordinate the feed run with the assistance of ‘Need for Feed’ a Lions International charity.

“This initiative is for all farmers feeling the effects of the drought, not just dairy farmers, so please let others know if you think they may be in need of assistance,” she says.

“To ensure a run, the minimum number of farmers needing assistance is five, but it’s then unlimited as to how many can receive assistance.”

Ms Rood acknowledges that it’s hard to ask for help but points to the bigger picture and sense of community that goes with living in a regional area.

“Without Bega Cheese and the farmers that support it, this place would be a ghost town,” she says.

“We need to get through this and help each other get through this.

“Please reach out and let us know if you need help, all requests for assistance and personal circumstances will be confidential.”

To apply for assistance and register for the Far South Coast Feed Run go to the Need for Feed website.

You will need:

  • ABN
  • PIC number
  • Business name
  • Email
  • Property name.

Farmers can also register for assistance via ‘Buy a Bale’. Gift cards worth $500 are available along with help to pay bills capped at $1500 for up to three bills with this total amount due.

The above details are needed, along with:

  • Financial assistance application
  • Primary Producer Declaration
  • Drivers Licence.

Check the ‘Buy a Bale’ website.

“Rain is really what we need. We were really hoping for a break in the weather in October. I know it’s only the first of the month but already it doesn’t look good,” Ms Rood says with a double-edged laugh.

Support and advice for drought-affected farmers:

  • Far South Coast Dairy Development Group, Ashleigh Rood – email fscddg1@gmail.com
  • South East Local Land Services, Andrew Taylor – phone 6491 7806 or email andrew.taylor@lls.nsw.gov.au
  • Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW Southern Region, Peter Muirhead – phone 0447 467 964 or email pmuirhead@rfcsnsw-sr@com.au
  • Rural Assistance Authority – phone 1800 678 593 or email rural.assist@raa.nsw.gov.au.

Mental health and wellbeing support is available through Lifeline, Beyond Blue, Teen Clinic, Headspace, and R U OK? or talk to your doctor.

Original Article published by Ian Campbell on About Regional.

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