Wednesday, April 24, 2024

More drought support for farmers

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Farmers heading into winter with feed shortages will welcome the announcement of a $900,000 funding boost that will ensure feed support services and extra wellbeing assistance continue to be available to farmers affected by drought. Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor announced in April that the Government will expand its drought support to include new areas Mid Canterbury, South Canterbury and Otago in its large-scale adverse event classification for drought, while continuing to support farmers in areas facing long-term dry conditions.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says critics of the government’s greenhouse gas emissions policy have not clearly explained their positions to levy payers and are not reflecting what exporters are saying. File photo
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In March 2020, O’Connor declared the drought affecting the entire North Island, parts of the South Island – Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough, and North Canterbury – and the Chatham Islands a large-scale adverse event, with the Government investing over $19 million in rural communities affected by drought in 2020.

Farmers in these areas continue to face long-term dry conditions, with autumn getting off to an extremely dry start in multiple regions along the east coast of the country.

“Forecast rainfall is not expected to be enough to allow parched soils and pastures time to recover before winter,” O’Connor says.

“This is the second consecutive year of drought for parts of the country and low groundwater levels have not been able to recharge.”

O’Connor said the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has been working with industry organisations, councils and Rural Support Trusts to monitor the impacts of the dry conditions and assess the need for additional support.

“Recovery and resilience coordinators will be employed to help coordinate support between Rural Support Trusts and industry groups, enabling affected communities to bounce back more quickly,” he says.

He encouraged concerned farmers to do a feed budget to get them through winter, or to contact the national feed planning service.

Alternatively, the feed coordination service could help farmers who needed supplementary feed immediately.

Support for the Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Tasman, Manawatū-Rangitīkei, Tararua and Nelson regions will remain in place until June 30, when it will be reviewed.

New areas Mid Canterbury, South Canterbury and Otago will receive extra support until November 30, and support for Marlborough, North Canterbury and the Chatham Islands has also been extended until the same date.

Taranaki, Ruapehu and Whanganui districts have received good rainfall and soil moisture levels have recovered.

“It’s encouraging to see conditions have been improving in some areas that were hit hard last year,” he says.

DairyNZ farm performance general manager Sharon Morrell says some regions are experiencing dry conditions due to lower overall rainfall.

“Most dairy farms affected are managing conditions well, although pasture cover on many farms is lower than usual,” she says.

“Good growing conditions in spring means farmers are going into this period with more supplements on hand, and they are able to source purchased feed more readily than last year.”

Morrell says using supplementary feed as required will benefit next season.

“Farmers are encouraged to focus on next season and not compromise cow condition and pasture cover targets,” she says.

Where to get help

Dairy farmers have access to several support services to address their particular challenge/s:

Feed budgeting: A national free feed planning service is available for farmers who need help doing a feed budget through winter. Dairy farmers can contact 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 324 7969) for more information.

Feed requirement: Alternatively, the feed coordination service can help farmers who need supplementary feed immediately. Farmers short of feed are encouraged to register online at mpi.govt.nz/drought 

Farmer wellbeing: Farmers who need wellbeing support should call their Rural Support Trust on 0800 RURAL HELP or 0800 787 254.

Additional information and resources to support farmers to manage through a dry period is available at dairynz.co.nz/feed 

Farm advisors are available to help with feed budgets and plans, including DairyNZ consulting officers, along with veterinarians, farm consultants or feed representatives:

Federated Farmers: www.fedfarm.org.nz

Ministry for Primary Industries: www.mpi.govt.nz/funding-rural-support/adverse-events/dealing-with-drought-conditions

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