News and Views

Drought continues to bite despite rains

Queensland Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson has advised Parliament that despite recent good rains in parts of the QLD State, widespread drought revocations are unlikely.

“It is pleasing to note that some producers have received rain since Christmas,” the Minister said.

“Indeed, some have been celebrating full dams for the first time in years.

“But as we approach the end of the wet season, the overall rainfall outlook for much of the state can be best described as ‘touch and go’.

“Overall much more rain is needed.”

Minister Donaldson said the next six weeks would be critical for summer active pastures and for planting rains.

After that, shorter days and cooler temperatures will limit pasture growth and begin to limit cropping options.

“Local Drought Committees will meet in mid-April to make recommendations on the status of drought declarations and revocations.

“At this stage widespread revocations are not expected.”

The Minister told fellow MPs the Queensland Government was honouring its election commitment to support existing drought relief arrangements until 2018 and work with industry on a suite of measures to assist primary producers improve their climate risk management and long-term drought preparedness.

“In accordance with our election commitment to review assistance levels, we have enhanced and increased support to producers and rural communities affected by the record drought,” the Minister said.

“We increased the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme (DRAS) cap from $30,000 to $40,000 for producers in their third and subsequent year of drought, streamlined the freight subsidy process for charities and made donations to a number of drought charities.

“And we have provided $2.9 million specifically for mental health support in droughted communities,” she said.

“In the current financial year $32.9 million has been allocated to DRAS and assistance from other Queensland Government agencies in 2015-16 includes $4 million on social and community support, $1.5 million on primary mental health support, $2.5 million on fixed electricity charge relief forirrigators and $4.113 million on waivers of annual water licences and rebate on land rent.”

Minister Donaldson said the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries had processed 2,000 freight subsidy claims valued at $6.787 million and 628 emergency water infrastructure rebate claims worth $5.375 million.

“More than $850,000 has been provided to charities to deliver drought support such as donated fodder.”

“We are providing producers with practical assistance to maintain their businesses when they need it most,” the Minister said.

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