Minister hears farmers’ drought concerns

THE effects of ongoing drought conditions on the lives and livelihoods of farmers of the upper Derwent Valley and Central Highland was impressed upon primary industries minister Jo Palmer MLC during a visit to Hamilton today.

Ms Palmer’s meeting with a small group of farmers at the Hamilton Town Hall followed an announcement early this morning that emergency drought relief would be extended across Tasmania. Premier Jeremy Rockliff said his travels around the state during the current state election campaign had shown that many areas of Tasmania are experiencing unseasonably dry conditions.

“Several weeks ago I announced hardship grants would be available to farmers on both King and Flinders Islands as a result of unseasonably dry conditions and costs associated with transportation,” Mr Rockliff said. “Today, I am announcing that we will extend hardship grants to the whole state.

“Grants of up to $5,000 will be available to livestock producers who can demonstrate hardship as a result of increased feed costs, reduction in the value of livestock, recovery costs of pasture, restocking, and other farm expenditure caused by the unseasonably dry conditions.

““The government will also provide a grant to the Rural Relief Fund of $500,000 for them to administer grants of up to $2500 per household. This funding will be available more broadly across agricultural sectors, for rural families experiencing hardship due to drought or extreme unseasonably dry conditions.”

Ms Palmer said some parts of Tasmania had experienced the lowest February rainfall on record, following on from a very dry summer. “The rainfall for February was below average for most of Tasmania and very much below average in a band stretching from the North West to the South East,” she said.

Guidelines for hardship grants will be made available on the Department of State Growth’s website in the next week or so. State Opposition Leader Rebecca White said the announcement of extended drought relief for farmers was welcome, but it being made four days before an election was a “cynical exploitation of the hardship they’ve been experiencing for weeks.” 

“Labor completely supports drought relief funding, but waiting until an election campaign to announce it is cruel and shameful,” said Ms White, who is also an MP for the local electorate of Lyons.

Picture: Primary industries minister Jo Palmer, left, talking with local farmers including Jim Allwright and Bernard Brain at Hamilton today.

See more Derwent Valley and Central Highlands news online and read our print edition every second Friday.

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