Government to announce new drought support package by June 30

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall, farmer Peter Ryan and Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders. Photo: Taylro Jurd.
Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall, farmer Peter Ryan and Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders. Photo: Taylro Jurd.

A new drought support package will be announced in a matter of weeks after Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall finishes his tour across western NSW to hear what is needed most.

The Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW is currently travelling across the region visiting towns such as Dubbo and Nyngan, to speak with farmers about what support is working, what isn't and what needs to be changed.

On May 14, he met with Dubbo farmer Peter Ryan to hear about what drought proof measures he has undertaken on his property 'Belmont'.

Mr Marshall said they will make an announcement on the new drought support package before the end of the financial year.

"We're talking a matter of weeks rather than months," he said.

"There will continue to be assistance but what that looks like will be announced very soon."

Mr Marshall said he was pleased to be able to come out to the region and speak with farmers.

"To really get an understanding about how the package is begin received, what's being taken up, and really get some feedback on what we need to do as a govt to cont to provide the most appropriate support," he said.

"There are things that we need to continue, things possibly we need to discontinue and some new programs we might need to introduce given the prolonged nature of this drought and the fact that it's biting.. beyond the farm gate (but) into the economy of a lot of our small country towns and even communities like Dubbo..."

The Ag Minister said the drought is crippling and impacting everywhere but the nature of that impact varied in different regions.

"I just want to hear from as many different farmers, different operations, as possible before I finalise that next package," he said.

"Because I want to try and provide the optimum support that we can for people, noting that we're not going to be able to have a package that is great for absolutely everyone because there's just so much diversity, but try and do the most good and the most good for farmers but also for the agricultural sector so that we're building resilience for the future..."

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall, farmer Peter Ryan and Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders. Photo: Taylor Jurd.

Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall, farmer Peter Ryan and Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders. Photo: Taylor Jurd.

Dubbo farmer Peter Ryan has undertaken various work on his property after receiving assistance through the state government Farm Innovation Fund.

These works included water infrastructure and fox baiting programs.

The mixed farmer said the drought has impacted them "massively" and they have no breeding cattle left.

"When we missed that big rain that was supposed to come at the end of March, we missed it completely, and got 5 millimetres so that was our tipping point for the cows.. they went unfortunately... the same week we sold all of our 2017 drop calves," he explained.

"Now we're back to 91 weaners, whereas we had 300 on the place normally."

Because of this, and to work around the lack of water the Dubbo farmers will soon move towards being a sheep operation.

"Simply because they certainly drink a lot less water," Mr Ryan explained.

The Dubbo farmer would like to see the government address off-farm income issues in their new drought support package.

In the DPI's Drought Assistance Fund eligibility criteria, it states that "as the owner and operator, you earn more than 50 per cent of your gross income from your primary production enterprise under normal seasonal circumstances."

The Farm Innovation Fund also requires that the farm owner and operator, earns more than 50 per cent of their gross income from primary production enterprise under normal seasonal circumstances.

Mr Ryan said he and his family purchased the Belmont property four years ago, but they would not be able to afford it now.

"Property prices are escalating. How a young farmer (is) meant to buy a place without having off-farm income is just impossible," he said.

"I wasn't given anything. My wife and I worked to we've built our way up to a position to buy this place and we now run it. If you're not given a farm... it's almost impossible to get on."

What makes it especially tough when you get on a property, is then be impacted by the drought which reduces income by 80 per cent, Mr Ryan said.

"You just can't generate the income to pay the mortgage, let alone feed the kids and the animals," he said.

"I think that in future, and especially if this drought keeps going, more and more people are just going to have to look at off-farm income. It's as simple as that."