It has been five months since the Mercury started the campaign to help Hunter farmers survive the drought.
And today we go one step further and launch a statewide petition – with the assistance of our sister mastheads from right across NSW.
The petition urges the state government to offer farmers relief on the cost of freight, fodder, water and Local Land Service rates as well as offer the collection of livestock genetics, and restocking/replanting loans after the drought breaks.
The key figure is 10,000 signatures which would ensure a parliamentary debate on the issue. Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison will take the petition to parliament.
The Buy A Bale Hunter campaign – a partnership between the Mercury, Newcastle Herald, Dungog Chronicle, Scone Advocate, Hunter Valley News and charity Rural Aid has given farmers more than $830,000 worth of help since February 14.
A Buy A Bale Hunter truck on its way to a farm
While that is a mammoth effort, the need for help continues to grow as water resources dry up across NSW and fodder supplies become critically low.
We are struggling to keep up with the demand.
Calls for help are flooding in from other areas of NSW too, and Buy A Bale has already delivered more than $200,000 worth of hay and the waiting list continues to grow.
Since February the conditions in our region – despite recent rain, and across the state have dramatically declined.
Right now 62 per cent of the state is in drought or at the onset of drought.
That’s more than double what it was two months ago.
Take a look at the drought in April 2018
Now, take a look at the drought in June 2018
In the Hunter 76 per cent of farms are in drought, or at the onset of drought – 16 per cent more than two months ago, and 23.8 per cent is classified as borderline.
It’s abundantly clear our farmers need more help.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud and NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair are some of the politicians that have set foot on the farm to see the impact first hand.
Mr Turnbull went on a drought listening tour of Dubbo, Narromine, Trangie and Queensland towns Blackhall, Charleville and Boulia this week.
He also dropped into his own Upper Hunter property.
Since our drought coverage started in February, the only new offer of help has been the $20,000 drought transport loans from the state government.These loans offered a two-year no interest and no repayment period.
A lot of farmers told Fairfax Media the $20,000 wouldn’t last very long and they wanted a subsidy.
Even Mr Blair has said a lot of farmers talk about freight subsidies when he visits farms across the state.
He told Fairfax Media in May that he is not ruling out implementing further support measures.
“We’re not ruling out any further changes or further assistance, we’re certainly mindful of the views that different people have because every farming business is different,” Mr Blair said during an interview in May.