Farmers welcome extension of support

Dry weather is affecting farmers throughout Otago and crops sown for winter feed have been poor...
Dry weather is affecting farmers throughout Otago and crops sown for winter feed have been poor because of the lack of rain. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
The extension of drought support into Otago and Canterbury is "great news", North Otago Federated Farmers president Myfanwy Alexander says.

Last week, Agriculture Minister Todd McClay announced the government was expanding the medium-scale adverse event classification in place for the Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman districts.

The classification meant farmers hit by the dry weather and struggling financially would be able to defer tax payments, and enabled the Ministry of Social Development to consider rural assistance payments.

The government had also given $70,000 to Rural Support Trusts in North, Mid and South Canterbury and Otago to enable community and one-on-one support.

Ms Alexander, who is a dairy farmer near Duntroon, said there were inland parts of Otago and South Canterbury that barely had 15mm of rain since January 1, and that had been spread out in dribs and drabs of a few millimetres.

"Basically, if you’re out past Duntroon and don’t have irrigation touching the ground, your grass is dead," she said.

In areas such as Otematata, Hakataramea, Twizel and the Lindis Pass, farmers had de-stocked and some were having to use winter feed reserves.

Crops sown for winter feed were stressed by the dry conditions and yields would be "massively back if they’re there at all", she said.

She was also concerned about the flow-on effects of the very dry conditions and de-stocking. Shearers, as an example, would have less work and local economies would also suffer as farmers cut spending.

Rural Communities Minister Mark Patterson, who visited affected regions recently to meet farmers, growers and sector groups, said recent rain failed to deliver any significant relief.

"The Ministry for Primary Industries has been working with sector groups, regional bodies, and farmers to prepare for El Nino since its arrival last year; and continue to monitor the situation to determine where additional support is needed," he said.

■Rural Support Trust:

0800 787 254.