Crunch time: six weeks until a farm crisis

More farmers to walk away from agriculture industry on Anzac Day 2019 if no rain


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Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

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Anzac Day, is firmly in primary producer's diaries as D-Day.

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In six weeks more farmers who put food on our tables will make the heartbreaking decision to walk away from the agriculture industry.

Unprecedented drought has taken a toll across the state and April 25 - Anzac Day, is firmly in primary producer's diaries as D-Day.

That's the day when adequate soil moisture must exist or planting winter crops and waiting for pasture growth is a massive gamble.

Both sides of politics agree it is crunch time.

"Anzac Day is traditionally in most parts of the state where if we don't have any decent soil moisture we won't get a winter crop in the ground and then it's starting to get too late for pasture growth as well," NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said.

"You look at the deterioration of the conditions in the last few weeks in particular and it's a pretty ugly story, there is absolutely no doubt about that. I'm really concerned about the conditions and we will continue to stand by our farmers whatever the outcome."

The NSW Department of Primary Industries seasonal outlook, released on March 8, found most of the rain that fell in January and February was useless because of high temperatures and evaporation. Plant growth and soil moisture is critically low across most of the state.

February rainfall alone was 60 per cent below the long-term NSW average and Bureau of Meterology data shows there is a low chance of average rain between now and May. 

Farmers are enduring unrelenting hardship despite an unprecedented $1.5 billion of drought relief from the state government, federal government assistance packages and donations to charity. 

"Some people are into their second, third fourth and in some parts fifth year of drought and there's only so much you can prepare for. I don't think anyone predicted how hard this drought was going to be. There is no simple or easy answer when it comes to drought," opposition spokesman for primary industries Mick Veitch said.

In spring last year drought breaking rain had been on the radar for autumn, but since then it evaporated. Scorching summer temperatures have taken a toll on water resources and forced livestock producers to reduce their herds.

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Merriwa farmer Cassandra McLaren said some farmers weren't in a position to take on any more debt.

"A lot of farmers have already taken on a lot of debt to stay afloat and if they have to sell all of their animals they'll be left without an income. In some cases those animals still belong to the bank," she said.

"They have so many costs that they can't control. If we want everyday farming families to stick around these people need more help."

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