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Farmers ask Government to tackle drought as natural disaster

John Lethbridge tries to sell his Hughenden farm land due to lack of income image www.ozrural.com.au

Photo: John Lethbridge tries to sell his Hughenden farm land due to lack of income.

Farmers are warning the Queensland beef industry is on the brink of collapse and the dire and enduring drought needs to be declared a natural disaster.

Around 75 per cent of Queensland is drought-declared and graziers are coping with their third or fourth year of drought.

John Lethbridge completely destocked his 7,000-head cattle property to survive.

With no income, Mr Lethbridge is trying to sell up his land in Hughenden after a lifetime on the land.

It’s that stage now in my life that there’s just no money in it. It’s just not worth it. I don’t feel like doing it any more. I honestly don’t.

Grazier Mick Pemble from Charters Towers says:-

“We’re in shutdown mode and trying to hang in for as long as it takes to weather this out,” he said.

“It’s certainly the worst I’ve seen.

“Morale of people, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, people I think are starting to get a bit shell-shocked.”

Mr Lethbridge, who has been in drought for three years, said the drought should be declared a natural disaster.

‘Disease that is eroding you away’

Mr Lethbridge said many farmers were not coping with the drought’s relentlessness.

“Floods and fires are a bit more like accidents, where you get smashed up, but the worst has happened and you can make plans going forward for when you get better,” he said.

“This is more like dealing with a disease that’s slowly eroding away at you personally and financially.

“You know you’re thinking about it last thing at night and when you wake up in the morning it’s there again.”

dried water hole image www.ozrural.com.au

Mr Lethbridge said he fears the industry had now suffered so much it would be near impossible to turn around.

“The situation has deteriorated to this stage now where it is getting to be unprecedented, and I just think there’ll be a general meltdown,” he said.

Mick Pemble from Charters Towers agreed the industry is becoming unviable.

“It’s just not worth it; I’ve been in the industry for 35 years and progressively seen it get worse and worse and worse,” he said.

“It’s that stage now in my life that there’s just no money in it.

“Even in a good season, we can’t make an average wage – that’s how poor the industry’s got.

“And I don’t feel like doing it any more, I honestly don’t.”

Governments to spend $95 million on drought

Mr Pemble and his wife Tess have entered their fourth year of drought and have been shooting and selling cattle to survive.

In the last two years, they have spent more than $600,000 on feed and water to keep their remaining cattle alive.

Mrs Pemble said they cannot afford it to continue.

“You want to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and you want it to be there, and you think of the grandkids who love coming out because it’s home,” she said.

“But you really do start looking at what other prospects you can have and it gets too hard.”

Drought-stricken land near Charters Towers.image www.ozrural.com.au

Farmers have asked the state and federal governments to consider more drought assistance measures.

Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said he understands the desperate plight of those in the outback.

“I agree that the drought is a natural disaster,” he said.

“I agree that circumstances for the industry are very, very difficult and problematic at the moment.

“That’s why the Queensland Government has provided increased levels of assistance for this particular drought.

“In fact, Queensland Government’s spending on this drought by the end of the financial year will be approximately $95 million.”

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Henry Sapiecha

May 3rd, 2015
Topic: DROUGHTS FLOODS, GOVERNMENT, GRANTS SUBSIDIES, NATIONAL DISASTERS, NATURAL DISASTERS, PEOPLE Tags: , , , ,

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