2 October 2019

Feed run for southern farmers in the face of drought slap down

| Ian Campbell
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Ashleigh and X Rood with poddy calves on their dairy farm. Photo: Supplied.

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 the Moyne Shire, in Victoria is to receive 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,” 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 labeled 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.”

“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. Photo: NSW DPI

NSW Drought Map, October 2019. Photo: NSW DPI

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,” Ashleigh 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 group she leads (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’. $500 gift cards 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 License

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 [email protected]
  • South East Local Land Services, Andrew Taylor – phone 6491 7806 or email [email protected]
  • Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW Southern Region, Peter Muirhead – phone 0447 467 964 or email pmuirhead@[email protected]
  • Rural Assistance Authority – phone 1800 678 593 or email [email protected]

Mental health and wellbeing support – Life Line, Beyond Blue, Teen Clinic, Headspace, RU Okay? or talk to your doctor.

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Fiona Kotvojs8:40 am 04 Oct 19

Things are tough enough for farmers in drought without misinformation being spread by the media and Mike Kelly. The Bega Council is one of the Councils included under the Drought Community Program. The recent announcement was for inclusion of an additional 13 Councils – Bega was already included. You can check for yourself on https://www.business.gov.au/assistance/drought-communities-programme
The $1m available to each eligible Council is for the Council to invest in local infrastructure and other drought-relief activities that provide short-term support, including a boost to local employment and procurement.
In Bega, the Council spent most of the funds on upgrading the saleyards to help increase economic activity for farmers. A very appropriate investment in the future of our farmers. We haven’t missed out.

Ian Campbell9:08 am 04 Oct 19

Thanks Fiona, I was aware of the funding and projects you point to in writting the article, it was welcome news when the announcement was made some months ago. But there was no new money for the region in this latest round, instead a community who say they don’t need it was allocated funding, while Snowy Monaro and others that are drought declared missed out, that is the gist of the story. You’ll note that the farmer quoted acknowledges the governement support at play. Cheers Ian

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