Crunch time for WA

28 Jun, 2007 07:00 PM

RAINFALL late last week and over the weekend may have improved the situation for some growers across the state, but the situation still remains dire for growers in the northern agricultural region.

Dry Seasons Advisory Committee (DSAC) chairman Dexter Davies visited the northern agricultural region last week and described the farming conditions he saw as some of the worst he had witnessed during his seven years in the role.

Mr Davies said the situation was far worse than last year¹s devastating drought, which saw crop production stripped by more than 50pc from 2005 and cost the state¹s agricultural industry an estimated $2 billion.

Mr Davies visited farms in Geraldton, Yuna, Northampton and surrounding areas last week, to make an assessment of the local conditions.

He also met with 150 farmers at the Yuna town hall to hear their thoughts and feelings on the drought and to learn more about some of the challenges they faced.

Mr Davies presented his findings to State Agriculture Minister Kim Chance on return late last week and plans to re-visit the area with Mr chance on Friday to conduct another assessment of the situation.

He said rain over the weekend would improve the situation slightly but was optimistic about its long-term impact.

Mr Davies said more rain was needed but it would only solve some of the immediate problems.

He did not hold high hope for growers in some of the worst affected areas.

Mr Davies said farmers who had suffered badly from drought in 2006 and were on the verge of quitting the industry because of it, would now have no other option but to consider alternative means of earning an income.

³The best bet for most farmers in the north from the recent rain is that they will get some ground cover but that¹s about it,² Mr Davies said.

³And there may be some break even crops and a bit of pasture for some farmers but very few of them if any will be making a profit from their cropping programs this year.

³North of Northampton they are starting to kill lambs and there¹s hardly anything in the ground, the wind is blowing like crazy and the paddocks are dry and wind swept.

³We haven¹t raised the white flag yet, we never give up hope but if it doesn¹t continue to rain from now then there is really a strong chance that it will be an absolute disaster.²

Mr Davies said extra counselling services, along with veterinary, stockfeed, transportation services and other protocols were being established.

He said facilities to establish Exceptional Cir-cumstances (EC) funding applications were underway and would help provide an early response.

Mr Davies said prospects from Geraldton to Mingenew were ³looking okay² and farmers there still had some chance of a good crop.

He said farmers east of Mingenew however, were still battling the dry.

³East of Mingenew it starts to dry out a bit but some of those farmers too, still have a good chance if the rain keeps up,² he said.

³There are some fairly dry paddocks down south towards Moora and north to Wongan also.²

Mr Davies said farmers coming off a no-income year in 2006 had been responsible with their planning and would have spent less on inputs this season, but that cautious approach may not have saved them from disaster.



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