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Further Government Action in Snow-hit Canterbury

10th July 2006

Further Government Action in Snow-hit Canterbury

The critical message to emerge in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s (MAF) assessment and contact with industry from the snow-hit areas was that proactive feed budgeting, financial planning and contingency planning by farmers is essential to avoid feed shortages and animal welfare problems later in the season. Jim Anderton took that message to Cabinet today.

"Cabinet has today approved an urgent Government Assistance Package of $870,000 which is targeted at meeting rural welfare needs, farmer information and support requirements. This is on top of the $760,000 already committed to relief measures in Canterbury's farming region," Jim Anderton said today from the flood areas of the lower North Island.

"The additional $870,000 will be spent on a range of things that will help Canterbury's rural communities through the hard times they are undergoing.

There is some flexibility to move funds from one area into another, where there is more need.

$360,000 will be spent on volunteers such as experienced farmers from outside the region. From experience, we know that these volunteers are an enormous morale boost to farmers under pressure and can assist with feed budgeting and other planning.

$10,000 will go towards media communications as they have a vital role in conveying accurate messages surrounding animal welfare issues.

$80,000 is for the four Rural Support Facilitators so that can continue to do whatever is required and towards Agriquality expertise that will assist the Rural Support team to address animal welfare issues.

$200,000 will go into the Rural Support Trusts.

$70,000 is for technology transfer in the form of shed meetings and workshops, which have been invaluable in crisis situations. Experience with the 2004 floods highlighted that a crucial component of the recovery process was the opportunity for farmers to network, share experiences and advice.

It is critical that all farmers commence immediate feed and contingency planning. Education and sharing information are critical elements in accelerating this and highlighting its importance. Dexcel, Meat and Wool New Zealand and MAF have been active in recent weeks. It is intended that MAF will work with industry bodies to boost this activity

$50,000 is for an Agricultural Recovery Co-ordinator, who will be the main contact person for all recovery issues. The coordinator will liaise with the Rural Trusts, the Rural Support Facilitators, industry organisations and would report back via MAF.

"It’s clear that feed across the region is going to be tight in August and perhaps September, even in the absence of more snow. In conjunction with the commercial firms, the Government is monitoring the situation very closely, in the interests of ensuring continuity of feed supply through the rest of winter. The snow event has created an extreme set of pressures on the continuity of feed. Any further snow events will place added pressure on feed reserves, increase the risk of stock losing condition, and increase the risk of significant animal welfare issues or stock deaths.

"It is critical that affected farmers undertake feed planning to ensure their stock can be adequately fed through to the spring. In the current feed market, timely decisions are essential – now is the time to order in any supplementary feed, to ensure that stock and station agents and feed companies have time to source it.

"Contingency planning is paramount both at the farm, industry and government levels. In the event of further snow events, MAF is currently discussing contingencies with the relevant organisations so the situation and response can be assessed quickly.

" One of the key impacts of a feed shortage is the impact on animal welfare. Insufficient quantity and quality of feed may impact on the critical animal health period prior to and following calving and lambing. The government is monitoring the situation on daily basis," Jim Anderton said.

ENDS

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