Drought rip-offs: Watchdog to monitor hay prices to avoid farmers being rorted

MONITOR: Derek Schoen will oversee freight subsidies in the drought.
MONITOR: Derek Schoen will oversee freight subsidies in the drought.

Dodgy operators over-charging drought-hit farmers for hay, delivering inferior quality feed or gazumping producers who believed they had supply contracts locked in will be monitored by the state government.

It has announced former NSW Farmers president Derek Schoen will work with the Department of Primary Industries [DPI] to tackle unscrupulous operators trying to benefit from the shortage of hay and feed in the drought.

There have been anecdotal reports of over-pricing of farmers desperately seeking hay.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said they wanted to ensure the government’s $500 million drought assistance and transport subsidy scheme was not abused.

“Every dollar rorted is a dollar that doesn’t help a farmer and I won’t accept anyone gaming the system,” he said.

“He [Mr Schoen] will work closely with the DPI Market Insights and Analytics branch to monitor prices of freight and fodder during the Drought Transport Subsidy program, ensuring consumers and producers are not left vulnerable.”

Every dollar rorted is a dollar that doesn’t help a farmer.

Niall Blair, Primary Industries Minister

A DPI spokesman said the Market Insights and Analytics team was based in Orange.

He urged people to report concerns regarding the cost of freight and fodder by emailing freightwatch@dpi.nsw.gov.au.

The spokesman also said the increased workload for the DPI to handle drought assistance had led to 22 more people being employed at the Orange office.

“The NSW Rural Assistance Authority currently have more than 50 staff following the recruitment of 22 extra officers to assist with processing drought related applications, meaning we are resourced to process applications as soon as possible,” he said.

The state government has also increased the amount of hay that can be carried on trucks.

Western NSW parliamentary secretary Rick Colless said it would benefit Orange region farmers by reducing transport costs.

This story Drought rip-offs: Watchdog to monitor hay prices to avoid farmers being rorted first appeared on Central Western Daily.

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