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Drought over but affects will linger

2 October 2013

Drought over but affects will linger

While the drought of 2013 is now officially over, some farms, especially meat and fibre will see its aftermath linger for years to come.

“While the thankfully benign winter and spring has seen a most remarkable come back in terms of pasture, North Island sheep farmers in particular lost capital stock and quality genetics,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Adverse Events Spokesperson.

“Not to mention their wool crop too. The shame being that it came at a time when wool seemed to be finding its feet

“After speaking to my colleague Jeannette MaxwellI, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre Chairperson, it means we are looking at fewer lambs this year with speculation it could be upwards of three million.

“Replacements will naturally cost more so it could take five years for farms to fully recover and that assumes there are no further climatic or market shocks.

“Yet the drought of 2013 should make us wake up to two realities. First, rain water storage is sorely needed in key farming areas and secondly, there is no such thing as ‘farmer welfare’.

“Having been interviewed at length during the drought, it amazed me to encounter people who believed every farmer was getting a cheque from the government. There was some harsh things said about farmers and it is time to put the record straight.

“Despite the worst drought in 70-years, covering the South Island’s west coast and the entire North Island, only 146 applications for Rural Assistance Payments (RAP) were granted. There are, after all, tens of thousands of farms in New Zealand.

“Federated Farmers repeatedly said the only way for farmers to qualify for a RAP was to be in the most severe and constrained financial circumstances.

“The total of $814,277.32 that these 146 qualifying applicants received works out to be an average of $5,577.21. It needs to be remembered that applicants had to lose almost everything in order to get the same benefit as the unemployment one.

“Yet we must acknowledge the invaluable funding for the Rural Support Trusts.

“They provided counselling and advisory services to help farmers and their families to get through the most trying of times. The $320,000 in funding that the Rural Support Trusts received from the MPI was not only cost effective, it worked.

“Set against the billions of dollars that the primary industries generate for New Zealand, the drought has cost taxpayers just over $1.13 million in assistance. This is not an outrageous sum given the scale of the adverse event. It was targeted at those who had lost and to provide advisory services to prevent others from losing out.

“As we look back we would like to thank the MPI and our kindred organisations who worked with Federated Farmers. I wish to especially thank our Grain & Seed Industry Group for their amazing work in shifting feed to the North Island.

“It was a stressful time for many and we hope that with real policy solutions on the table to meet our ever changing climate, the drought of 2013 will be one for the history books,” Katie Milne concluded.


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