Just a few weeks after stepping down as president of NSW Farmers, Corowa’s Derek Schoen has landed a job overseeing freight subsidies during the drought to make sure the system is not rorted.
Telling Farmers conference he was over the “fly-in, fly-out” lifestyle of being NSW farmers president, it looks like he will return to that lifestyle as the new Drought Transport Subsidy Integrity Advisor.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair announced Mr Schoen would help monitor the freight subsidy system introduced as part of the NSW Government’s $500m response to the drought.
Mr Blair said Mr Schoen would “spearhead the NSW Government’s monitoring of the program and freight prices”.
Mr Blair said Mr Schoen was “a well-respected farmer and agribusiness leader, who will work between Government and industry as an independent advisor on the price pressures faced by our farmers due to increasing demand on stock feed”.
Mr Schoen told The Land that he would be “naming and shaming” any unscrupulous operators making a profit out of the subsidy situation.
Mr Schoen said he had already received anecdotal evidence of some rorting of the system and some instances of gazumping of people who thought they had feed contracts locked in.
They would also act on inferior hay deliveries when superior hay had been promised.
“We’ve heard some anecdotal stories of rorting, we will be keeping a close eye on what is happening by setting up some data bases to monitor prices. If we find anything untoward we will be following that up. I suppose you could call this a bit of a shot across the bows of anyone who may want to do the wrong thing. We won’t hold back in naming and shaming unscrupulous operators.”
Mr Blair said: “Every dollar rorted is a dollar that doesn’t help a farmer and I won’t accept anyone gaming the system”.
“Derek’s industry experience and work with sectors across NSW puts him in an ideal position to advise Government on any emerging trends of concern to farmers.
“He will work closely with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Market Insights and Analytics Branch to monitor prices of freight and fodder during the Drought Transport Subsidy program, ensuring consumers and producers are not left vulnerable in the marketplace.
“The NSW Government is committed to ensuring farmers, their families and the NSW taxpayer gets the best bang for their buck from the subsidy program.”
Derek Schoen produces hay for sale himself, and said he was irrigating earlier than ever (today) before to get a crop up and going for a harvest in October. He said he knew supplies of hay were running low in Victoria and South Australia and some farmers would be in a difficult situation sourcing feed until new hay supplies came on the market in late October.
“There is no question this drought is biting hard and I am committed to making sure this assistance measure reaches those most in need,” Mr Schoen said.
“To make sure our farmers are supported, we need to ensure there are open lines of communication and active monitoring of freight prices during the roll-out of the program.”
Due to the compounding nature of drought, the NSW Government recently announced they would provide Drought Transport Subsidies as part of its $500 million NSW Emergency Drought Relief Package.