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Anderton - Measures to help Canterbury Farmers

Anderton announces Measures to help Canterbury Farmers

These further specific Government measures will assist farming communities hit by snow.

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Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton announced further, specific government measures today to assist the Canterbury farming communities hit by snow. These follow Civil Defence and local assistance, which has been provided throughout the emergency period.

The government will help rural households under stress by establishing rural support offices and facilitators. We will continue to work with Dexcel and Meat and Wool New Zealand on providing good quality information on farm management under snow conditions and compiling a stock take of available feed throughout regional New Zealand and possible ongoing roles for government in relation to feed supply," Jim Anderton said.

"Farmers have been working under stress as a result of the event, and a large number are still without power. Stress is high and energy levels low. They are predictably worried about how they will feed their stock through the rest of the winter particularly if further serious snowfalls occur. We know that other rural non-farming households are also under stress and will be assisted by this package.

"An 0800 number has been established for families to contact for assistance, but awareness of it is not as widespread as we would like. The main CDEM contact numbers in each district remain the primary contact point. Personal contact can help significantly in this situation at both the farm and the household level. Rural Support Offices and Rural Support Facilitators within each District Council area will help ease the burden the communities presently have. Services will include professional counselling/advice for farmers, including advice on the need for feed budgeting and financial planning.

"A base for a rural support volunteer effort to visit rural homes and offer practical assistance and support, as well as farm management advice will be organised. If required, a base for representatives from government agencies to provide financial and social support services to families will also be established at the local area affected.

"MAF will facilitate the setup and engagement of Rural Support Offices and Rural Suppprt Facilitators, in conjunction with the District Councils, Federated Farmers, and Rural Support Trusts. MAF will also purchase the lists of farmers' names, addresses and farm details from AgriQuality, for each Rural Support Office," Jim Anderton said today.

"Dexcel has carried out 5 workshops in local hotels for dairy farmers, with around 330 attendees. These workshop covered technical information from Dexcel and AgResearch scientists and advisors. They also involved a session with a farmer who had been through the 1992 snow event. Meat and Wool New Zealand is preparing information for meat & wool farmers. It is very likely that workshops will need to be repeated in a few weeks just prior to the start of lambing and calving.

MAF will continue discussions with Dexcel and Meat & Wool New Zealand to help ascertain the need for further technical advice to farmers," Jim Anderton said.

"Most farms had adequate winter feed before the snow. The snow damaged forage crops (50-60% yield loss) and farmers have fed out supplementary feed at twice to three times the normal rate. There is sufficient feed for the next three to four weeks but it is anticipated that many farmers will need to de-stock or acquire extra supplementary feed to get through to lambing and calving without heavy stock losses.

"The feed deficit is a three month situation - it will be early October before pasture feed supply meets feeding demand. Farmers will want to maintain stock condition through this period. Any significant loss of animal condition will result in loss of production, economic value and performance, and the death of stock.

"Further storm and snow events can be expected through July and August until mid to late September. Any more extended snow cover will further pressure feed reserves. This would increase the risk of stock losing condition and becoming increasingly vulnerable to further events - so the risk of large-scale animal welfare issues and stock deaths will increase.

"We know that the risk of loss of production and economic performance and value will accentuate stress in farmers and rural communities so these potential effects can be reduced by early decisions, planning and feeding management.

"MAF is currently working on an assessment of the feed situation within the Canterbury Region. I have asked MAF for a report by Wednesday 28 June. However, local farm consultants report a high degree of uncertainty about the actual feed situation at a farm-by-farm level, so we expect that by Wednesday there will still be substantial uncertainty about the total situation.

"The assessment will include: an estimation of on farm feed requirements, feed stocks in the region, an evaluation of options for de-stocking and indications of the feed supply in other regions of New Zealand. This assessment will set out the size and nature of the feed deficit - noting of course that weather over the next few months will have a critical bearing on how things play out.

"Along with this assessment, MAF will be considering the extent to which farmers are able to take actions to buy feed or sell/move stock, and possible roles for the Government in assisting this if necessary," Jim Anderton said.

"In the first instance I have approved an initial expenditure of $160,000 to funds these measures from MAF's Adverse Events Contingency budget. I have recommended to Cabinet that if more detailed costings show that these figures are too low, then additional funds will be sought," Jim Anderton said.


ENDS

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