One-hundred per cent of NSW is now considered to be drought-affected, in drought or in intense drought according to the state’s Department of Primary Industries’ Combined Drought Indicator.
More than a quarter of the Dubbo region is considered to be at the most severe, intense drought level.
The update comes just one day after the federal government announced $190 million in immediate drought relief at a farm in Trangie.
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NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair welcomed the funding, particularly the changes to the Farm Household Allowance and asset tests.
The FHA will include two lump sum payments worth up to $12,000 per year, with the net asset threshold raised from $2.6 million to $5 million, making more farmers eligible.
But he warned the state and federal governments would need to continue to monitor the situation, with no drought-breaking rain in the long-term forecasts.
“I commend the federal government, particularly the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister David Littleproud,” Mr Blair said.
“I’ve had direct dealings with each and every one of them, who have wanted to be kept informed in relation to what we’re doing and discussing some of the feedback in relation to some of the federal government programs … and the Farm Household Allowance is there for those that are doing it really tough.
“Hopefully what we’ve done around Local Land Services rates and transport, and what the federal government has announced … we’re starting to ease some of the pressure on those producers.”
Questions have been raised about the value of increasing the FHA, with some suggesting farmers would put the welfare of their animals before their own.
“I hope that, between the state and federal government, that we’ve gone some of the way to make sure that doesn’t occur,” Mr Blair said.
“We’ve got measures there for the stock side; this is for the family and making sure they’ve got the basics.
“But … if we do start to see that, I’m pretty sure that we’ll be able to work with the communities to see if there are some other things people may need assistance with.”
Dubbo received 11.2 millimetres of rain in the first six days of August – seven times the amount that fell in all of July.
But weekend falls were nothing to get excited about, Mr Blair warned, and governments would soon need to consider broader support measures for the shearing contractors and machinery businesses reliant on the agriculture sector.
Even the broader business community, from lawnmowers to the local bakery, could need support.
“We can’t miss anyone and that’s certainly that we’re turning our minds to as we lead into summer,” he said.
“I think everything is pointing towards a worse-than-average rainfall forecast and that’s not great considering how dry things are. It’s not taking very long for any rain to soak into the ground … there’s certainly no drought-breaking rains on the future forecasts.”