DROUGHT has tightened its grip on Queensland, with 65.2 per cent of the state now drought-declared.
It follows a significant lack of rainfall across central, southern and southeast Queensland, with serious concerns about water supplies – and is up from 58.1 per cent of the state last year.
State Minister for Agricultural Industry Development Mark Furner said despite cyclones and record-breaking flood events in some parts of the state, the drought was continuing unabated.
Drought also affecting large areas of NSW and Victoria, heaping pressure on the 65,178 farmers across the eastern states.
Many farmers are buying in hay from as far as Western Australia, which has become more expensive as the drought continues and local shortage of feed worsens.
A tonne of hay now costs about $500, which is more than double the price it was about two years ago.
Hundreds of regional small businesses are suffering from reduced cashflow due to a drop in consumer spending triggered by the drought.
To help address these and other issues facing Aussie farmers, The Courier-Mail, together with major News Corp mastheads in NSW and Victoria, is launching the Adopt a Farmer campaign today, which aims to raise $800,000.
Schools, community groups and workplaces are encouraged to hold a gold coin free dress day on May 8 to raise funds.
Charity partner Rural Aid will collect funds with a goal of giving $100 on Visa giftcards to thousands of farmers alreadyregistered through the charity’s successful Buy a Bale campaign.
The National Australia Bank and AGL have donated $100,000 each to start the fundraising effort which is designed to injectsome money back into local economies and to give farmers, adopted by the state’s children, a small reprieve from the financial pressures they face.
Qantas has also got behind the campaign and will fly five students from Sydney to the bush to meet farmers for a day and IGA is offering $1000 grocery giftcards to students who write their own stories of how drought has affected them.
In Queensland, five new shires have been added to the 23 already-drought-declared councils and four others have been issued with part drought declarations.
“These areas saw significantly below-average rainfall over the last year,” Mr Furner said.
“And the rainfall they did receive had little impact on breaking the ongoing drought.”
He said a lack of summer rainfall and increased temperatures have had a major impact on agriculture production in a key period for livestock and cropping in Queensland’s primary industries.
“The drought has seen poor pasture growth, failed winter and summer crops in many areas as well as significant concerns about stock, irrigation and rural domestic water supplies moving forward into our normally dry winter period.
“And while central Queensland received recent rainfall triggering some winter crop plantings such as forage oats, barley and chickpeas, follow-up rain will be essential.”
New declarations cover Ipswich Regional Council, the remainder of Western Downs Regional Council, Scenic Rim Regional Council, the remainder of Banana Regional Council, and Gladstone Regional Council.
They also include Rockhampton Regional Council, Livingstone Shire and the southern portion of the Central Highlands Regional Council including part of the Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council.
“These declarations allow us to target assistance to primary producers who are doing it tough, and supporting agricultural industries and jobs in the process,” Mr Furner said.
The article’s credit is for the source: Whistsunday Times