SE dry raises alarm bells

17 Aug, 2015 02:00 AM
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Livestock SA board member and Field livestock producer Penny Schulz (with husband Jason and son Heston) applauded PIRSA taking the lead to address the situation in the SE.
Livestock SA board member and Field livestock producer Penny Schulz (with husband Jason and son Heston) applauded PIRSA taking the lead to address the situation in the SE.

SOUTH East regional leaders and agencies have got on the front foot to tackle the extended dry period in the area, meeting to discuss a coordinated approach.

But there are calls to ensure this response, particularly financial assistance and support services, are made available quickly to those bearing the brunt of a second year of rainfall well below-average, especially those in the upper areas of the region.

PIRSA convened the meeting of key stakeholders at Struan House on Wednesday last week with invitees including Livestock SA and Grain Producers SA, Rural Business Support, Country Health SA, Regional Development Australia, the MacKillop Farm Management Group, SE Natural Resource Management Board, South East Local Government Association, DEWNR, Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Human Services, and Coorong and Tatiara LAP group.

In a statement, a PIRSA spokesperson said the purpose of the meeting was to achieve a common understanding of seasonal conditions and its potential impact on the region.

"A range of potential short and long term measures to address impacts of the season were discussed and the group made a commitment to develop these ideas into tangible measures," the spokesperson said.

"The group has committed to meet again in the coming months to further investigate these measures and continue to develop a united way forward."

The PIRSA spokesperson said there was a positive response to the new National Drought Program Reform which aimed to build the resilience of farm businesses to adapt and prepare for challenges, including periods of drought.

Livestock SA board member and Field livestock producer Penny Schulz applauded PIRSA taking the lead to address the situation in the SE and said Livestock SA was looking forward to working with them to develop trigger points for dry times, mitigation strategies, and risk management policies for now and future dry years.

These meetings needed to happen urgently given the situation for livestock producers was "here and now".

"People just survived last spring so this is another kick in the knee," Ms Schulz said.

"If there were not such buoyant times for red meat it would be a dire situation."

She said it was a positive step to have recognised the usually reliable South East could be affected by drought conditions.

Many SE livestock producers are still struggling from the 2006 drought.

"We have ourselves had only enough good years to get back on track since the millennium drought but not enough good times to get our farm business back to where it was before 2006," Ms Schulz said.

Livestock SA commended the federal government's commitment to an ongoing drought support package but said discrepancies between the approval rates of drought concessional loans in SA and Vic, despite the same guidelines for each state, were needed.

"There are plenty of great farming businesses in the SE going through hardship yet little or no money has been given out. They don't want a hand out just a hand up," Ms Schulz said.

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    Catherine Miller

    Catherine Miller

    is Stock Journal's livestock editor and South East correspondent

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