AS SNOW fell across the Central Tablelands on Friday and with it went hopes of a late growth spurt on pastures already bare, a small crowd gathered in a woolshed at about 950 metres elevation buffeted by windbursts.
About 30 farmers briefed Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair and Bathurst MP Paul Toole about current conditions, their contingency plans and what the NSW government could do better to help them.
Before proceedings began talk was of news reports two days earlier of farmers shooting stud cattle because they couldn’t afford to feed them. Anger was palpable about the reports and most felt bad management was more to blame than a lack of rain.
“There’s no excuse for anyone shooting cattle at this stage,” said Mr Blair, his statement drawing murmurs of grim concurrence.
Mr Barilaro said the drought was biting differently in different places and “if I came here with an announcement, that would be just playing to the media”.
The media copped flak from farmer James Stonestreet, flanked by his father Ian, who hosted the gathering on the family’s 500-hectare “St Andrew’s”, at Newbridge. Mr Stonestreet criticised the media’s propensity for negative reporting when word should be spread of the victories of agile managers.
Mr Blair said the visit was a chance for “us to check how our systems are working”.
One suggestion was a ceiling per kilometre on cartage charges farmers paid if they were onto a good source of hay, which in current conditions meant they would be moving it big distances.
Another suggested tweak was help with transport across the board, be it for stock, fodder or water.
That a Centrelink account was needed for drought assistance was a bugbear.