Relief outlined by Barnaby Joyce is not enough says Walcha grazier

Brian Blake with his partner Debra Clare
Brian Blake with his partner Debra Clare

The latest addition to the drought relief package announced by the Federal Government is not enough according to local cattle grazier Brian Blake.

On Sunday, the Coalition Government announced two lump sum supplementary payments to the Farm Household Allowance. Farming families will now receive up to a total of $28,000 a year in assistance following a boost of up to $12,000 per annum to FHA for eligible households. The net asset threshold cap to access the FHA was also raised from $2.6 million to $5 million.

“These extra FHA payments will help get cash in the door so families can pay their bills and get their kids to school. This will flow through to small businesses across the New England,” Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce said.

But Brian Blake doesn’t agree.

“I feel we should be grateful for any assistance we get at all,” he said.  “But as far as the two payments of $6000 go, if you get online and look at the paperwork you need to fill out, you will need to get your accountant to do it and there will go $2000 of that money straight up. So that will leave you with $4000. You would be very lucky to keep two people going with that, let alone a family of five with food and bills.”

You would be very lucky to keep two people going with that

Brian Blake

The package announced last week by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian doesn’t cut it either in Mr Blake’s opinion.

“I don’t know if the transport subsidy will help with the 1,500 kilometre distance per trip limit,” he said. “Most of the fodder of any real value will be at least that far away, and at $5.00 a km that’s $7,500 per load. So that’s $20,000 gone after less than three B-Double loads at about 60 bales each load. If they think this will keep us in core breeding numbers they are sadly mistaken.”

Mr Blake runs a family business over three properties consisting of a total of 4,000 acres. They currently have 1,000 breeding cows, 370 weaners and 150 replacement heifers.

“Just do the sums,” Mr Blake said. “1,000 cows at ten bales a day is 70 bales a week - so $20,000 buys three weeks of transport then you have to add in the cost of the hay, and that’s between $80 to $140 per bale. The price of cotton seed has gone up from $225 a tonne to $525 a tonne, and freight is now at $50 to $75 per tonne.”

Mr Joyce, said the $190 million package of immediate relief, including mental health services, was the result of concerted efforts.

“We’re not backing down on our commitment to drought-hit farmers in the New England, we’re in this for the long haul, and we will stick by our farmers every step of the way,” Mr Joyce said. “I want to make sure farming families and communities get all the support they need to get through the drought, recover and get back on their feet.”

This will flow through to small businesses across the New England

New England MP Barnaby Joyce

Mr Blake said the money wouldn’t go too far at all.

“If we want farmers to see the light at the end of the tunnel then this freight subsidy and $12,000 won’t do much to help most farmers who are carrying a mortgage or a substantial herd of breeders. It’s too little, too late.”