Drought worst in living memory: AgForce survey
Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Almost two-thirds of Queensland primary producers believe the current drought gripping the state is the worst in their living memory according to a recent survey.

AgForce General President Grant Maudsley said the survey of AgForce members across 31 drought-declared shires highlighted the ongoing pressure the drought is placing on agriculture and rural communities.

"The current drought means most Queensland farmers in these shires won't make a profit in the current decade and it is now threatening the viability of rural communities as well," Mr Maudsley said.

"Our priority now is to assist farmers in the current period and then post-drought, undertake the recovery as quickly as possible.

"About three-out-of-five members surveyed had received or previously used some form of state or federal government assistance, either financial or personal, with water infrastructure subsidies, financial counselling and education assistance well received and forward looking."

Mr Maudsley said AgForce members had identified key areas of improvement for both the design and delivery of existing drought assistance measures.

According to the survey:
  • Two-thirds of farmers in drought-affected areas had not applied for the Federal Government's Farm Household Allowance or concessional loans and 44 per cent did not consider they meet the eligibility criteria;
  • Of those who commented on the household allowance application process more than 4 in 5 believed the process was onerous, complicated, or repetitive and about 1 in 5 encountered problems due to poor internet connectivity or delays in receiving payment;
  • Only one half of applicants for Drought Concessional Loans were successful;
  • Loans were generally viewed unfavourably compared to past interest rate subsidies, with the refinancing benefits currently available thought insufficient to risk existing relationships with lenders, while some lenders did not support applications.
  • Application success rates were higher for State Government programs included 74 per cent for Drought Recovery Assistance Scheme subsidies and 92 per cent for Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate

AgForce members believed further support was needed, including for kangaroo control, business grants, farm labour wage assistance, and towards school education expenses as well as extension of measures to non-farm businesses in the community. Including desilting of dams and agistment enterprises was also identified.

"This survey of farmers in April, showed most producers had slashed their herd numbers and cut back on the state's grain planting in response to the dry," Mr Maudsley said.

The survey also showed:
  • 50 per cent of respondents had experienced up to a halving of their gross annual income, while 17 per cent reported an income reduction greater than three-quarters;
  • 37 per cent had seen debt increase by 25 per cent, while 22 per cent had experienced debt increases between 26-50 per cent;
  • 85 per cent of respondents were running less than three-quarters of their long-term stock carrying capacity and one-in-five carrying less than a quarter;
  • One in seven has less than 10 per cent of their potential surface water supply;
  • 65 per cent rated this drought worse financially than previous drought events while 59 per cent rated it worst personally and 46 per cent rate rated it worse environmentally.

Mr Maudsley said primary producers did not expect handouts from government but a review of existing measures was now critical.

"Our agriculture sector is absolutely vital to both the Queensland and Australian economy and to the well-being of rural communities and farming families who must be appropriately supported through this financially and personally challenging time," he said.

Ends
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Andrew Berkman 0418 733 102
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