Labor leaves the bush high and dry with drought looming

The NSW Nationals are calling on the Labor Government to unveil its drought preparedness plan, after small pockets of the state were declared to be back in drought.

Nationals Leader Dugald Saunders said parts of the Hunter Valley and areas around Grafton and Casino have been identified as being already impacted by the Department of Primary Industries’ Combined Drought Indicator.

“After a dry winter and ahead of the warmer months, drought is now on every farmer’s mind. It is seemingly inevitable, it is coming, and we need to prepare for it”, Mr Saunders said.

“The last drought was the worst in living memory and it is vital that we plan for the next one now, but I am yet to hear what the new Minister for Agriculture intends to do to get our farmers through the harsh conditions.”

Member for Clarence Richie Williamson said his region needs certainty with drought already on the doorstep.

“It is hard to believe that as our community tries to recover from catastrophic floods, some areas are already facing dry weather patterns,” Mr Williamson said.

“It is more important now than ever that Labor steps up to help our primary producers because they have faced so much and shouldn’t have to go it alone.”

Member for the Upper Hunter Dave Layzell said a drought plan is long overdue.

“In the town of Rouchel, between Scone and Muswellbrook, there is a very definite feeling that the area is already in drought,” Mr Layzell said.”

“Dugald and I met a group of around 30 to 40 people a few weeks ago, who told us they haven’t had any rain since November last year and that is really alarming.”

Peter Baldwin Chief Executive Officer of the Australia Livestock and Property Agents Association said cattle farmers are having to make difficult decisions.

“With the dry weather looking more likely, compounded by the sharp falls in cattle prices, livestock producers are making adjustments to their stocking rates to figure out how to get enough feed to get through the next few months”, Mr Baldwin said.

“The most important thing for producers right now is to have a clear plan and to know they have support around them to face the difficult times ahead.”

Mr Saunders used his speech at this year’s NSW Farmers Conference to raise the issue, highlighting the need for the Government to roll out another round of the Coalition’s successful Farm Innovation Fund.

“The key message here is that prevention is better than a cure and the Farm Innovation Fund is the single biggest opportunity farmers have to prepare for hardship and to remain resilient,” Mr Saunders said.

“Programs like this have a proven track record of success and I’m hoping the new Government will follow my commitment to tip in another 1 billion dollars to the Farm Innovation Fund, to keep supporting our Primary Industries.”

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