TOO LATE: Why farmers need Future Drought Funds now
NINE months is as good as nine years.
That’s the warning from one local farmer as a political stoush surrounding desperately needed drought funding continues to rage.
The Federal Government’s $5 billion Future Drought Fund is slated to begin, releasing funds to boost drought resilience in the middle of next year — nine months away.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has slammed the government for refusing to release the funds sooner.
However the Federal drought minister David Littleproud said the government wouldn’t rush the process.
“We need to ask rural communities how to best spend the money before we cut a cheque,” Minister Littleproud said.
“The state wants us to spend it without giving those communities a say.”
But Lefthand Branch grazier and local drought committee member Ian Lindenmayer said the funds were needed now.
“They’ve got to look at the immediate (need) to keep people going,” Mr Lindenmayer said.
The grazier has been forced to reduce his herd size by more than 60 per cent due to the drought, and said many across the region and the state were in even more desperate situations.
The nine-month wait for the drought fund to begin operating was “too late for a lot of people”, according to Mr Lindenmayer.
“Nine months’ time might as well be nine years’ time,” he said.
“Hopefully in nine months’ time we’re out of the drought.
“If we go another nine months there’s going to be nothing left anywhere.”
While the Future Drought Fund is slated to be used to “support initiatives that enhance the drought resilience of Australian farms”, he said long term sustainability started with short term assistance.
With many cattle farmers dipping into their own savings to feed cattle, he warned money needed to be spent to help provide feed and water to keep breeding stock on the land.
“People are selling off their breeding stock because they can’t afford to feed them,” Mr Lindenmayer said.
With farms selling their breeder cattle to abattoirs, he warned strong genetic material was being lost for good, and when the drought breaks farms would find it near impossible to restock their herds.
“The cattle market jumped 30c last week in the Downs because there was a bit of rain,” he said.
“When (the drought breaks), there won’t be breeders there for sale … and if there is any they’ll be worth a fortune and they’d only be the cull someone doesn’t want.”
The Queensland parliament yesterday passed a motion calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to release the funds early, and the Premier called for Canberra to listen to the state government.
“Nine months is too long for Queensland farmers to wait for this Federal assistance,” the Premier said.
However Minister Littleproud hit back at the Premier, admonishing her own response to the drought.
“I think it’s extraordinary that Annastacia Palaszczuk would have a chop at the Australian Government about our drought response,” Minister Littleproud said.
“This is coming from a mob that is actually reducing their response to the drought and that spent $250 million on giving bonuses to bureaucrats.
“We have a strategy in the here and now to look after communities and for the future droughts.”