Page 4685 - Week 12 - Thursday, 1 November 2018

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September 2018 was declared Australia’s driest September on record. Overall, mean temperatures have been above average across Australia. The ACT has experienced rainfall deficiencies since March. Of course, we are all hoping for rain. In recent discussions with the Rural Landholders’ Association, in August this year, I was pleased to hear that support provided by the ACT government in recent years has helped many landholders be better prepared for these current conditions.

The ACT Rural Landholders’ Association has valued training, workshops, information and grants provided through the regional agriculture Landcare facilitator and the parks and conservation service over the past couple of years. Key outcomes have been improving pastures and grazing management and tackling pest animals and weeds. Specific support provided through training and workshops has included paddock plant identification management; the pasture legume and soil testing program; best practice to increase lamb production—top lamb crop; feral pig control; rabbit control; and chemical use accreditation training. Although farmers have acknowledged that they are in a better position to manage dry conditions than they were previously, they are still feeling the impacts of these recent conditions.

A key concern of the ACT Rural Landholders’ Association is the cost of transporting fodder from as far as Victoria and South Australia to feed and care for stock. The ACT government recently announced a farmer support package tailored to the specific needs of ACT farmers that provided a 50 per cent freight subsidy on fodder, water and stock transported in 2018-19, up to $20,000 per farm business, and the rural resilience grants totalling $150,000 in 2018-19. That was the total program fund.

The freight transport subsidy was based on the New South Wales scheme. The New South Wales government recently changed the eligibility criteria, raising the off-farm assets from $1 million to $5 million. I am pleased to announce today that the ACT government will be matching that funding for those farmers eligible for the freight transport subsidy to the same subsidy in New South Wales.

The ACT rural resilience grants not only will help in current conditions but will also invest in the future of the ACT’s agriculture by improving on-farm infrastructure for stock water, including the construction of dams or de-silting existing dams and installing bores, rainwater tanks, pipes and troughs; improving on-farm infrastructure for fodder such as silos and hay sheds; and fencing to manage kangaroo numbers on properties to reduce the total grazing pressure on farms.

Rural landholders have also raised concerns about large numbers of kangaroos and the impact on their properties. I am advised by the Conservator of Flora and Fauna that he has met with rural landholders and is reviewing current approaches, in particular requirements during dry conditions.

In the face of climate change, farm business is becoming increasingly complex. The ability to adapt and build resilience is crucial. The ACT support complements that being provided by the Australian government. ACT rural landholders are encouraged to check their eligibility for commonwealth assistance, including the farm household allowance and concessional loans and farm management deposits, or FMD schemes.

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