Govt helps primary sector prepare for future droughts

A new $500,000 fund to help farmers and growers prepare their businesses to recover from drought as the economy gets moving again has been announced by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

The fund will provide advisory services that usually cost $5000 to equip rural businesses with professional and technical advice to help them recover from and better prepare for future drought.

“As we rebuild the economy following the effects of a global pandemic, we have an opportunity to build back better than before and factor in resilience for our productive primary sector,” Damien O’Connor said.

“So far this year the Government has invested $17 million to help drought-stricken regions recover from what many are saying is the worst drought in living memory. It has affected all of the North Island and a good portion of the South. 

“Although there has been a bit of rain relief recently, it takes steady rain at the right time to get grass growing again. The flow-on effects of water shortages and low feed availability take a long time to fully recover from and some farmers will be dealing with the effects of this drought for a year or more.”

One of the unusual consequences of the drought is being noticed by consumers – the paler colour of butter.

Mr O’Connor said New Zealand’s pasture-based farming system gives our butter a wonderful yellow colour but the shortage of grass and reliance on supplementary feed has turned it white.

“A return to yellow will maintain our competitive advantage in our export markets,” Mr O’Connor said.

With climate change, more acute weather events can be expected, he said.

“So it’s important we help farmers and growers get their businesses ready for future drought.

“Key to recovery is making good decisions, based on sound advice.  The purpose of this new fund is to ensure our farmers and growers can tap into this advice.

“The fund will address the longer-term issues but there are also ongoing, acute issues that need to be addressed with urgency. Access to feed is the biggest acute issue so two feed coordinators are in place as of today, one in the North Island and another in the South, to make sure available feed gets from where it is to where it’s most needed.

“The primary sector has shown time and again it has the strength, resilience and ability to recover from tough times and come back stronger than ever. I have every faith that – with this support – they’ll get through this too.’’

The fund will be managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries and will pay for recovery advisory services up to $5000 (excl GST) for selected applications in drought-affected regions.

Funding can be used for a range of advisory services and drought-related advice, like:

  • Strategic planning and the development of farm business plans
  • Practical, on-the-ground advice and support like land management and sustainable management techniques
  • Technical advice on soil and pastures, animal production, and feed budgeting.

To be eligible for this fund:

  • The farm is located in one of the 2020 drought-affected regions or districts (all of the North Island; the Chatham Islands, Christchurch, Marlborough, Nelson, Tasman, Selwyn, Kaikoura and Waimakariri districts and regions).
  • The business has been negatively affected by the 2020 drought
  • 50% of the farmer’s income, in a normal year, is earned from this farming business

The fund is open for applications between 11 May and 12 June 2020.

Support has been provided to drought stricken regions through a range of investments including $10 million for immediate water needs, $2 million to set up temporary water supplies, $2 million for rural assistance payments and about $2.5 million to boost funding for Rural Support Trusts, recovery co-ordinators and a feed working group, $.5 million for advisory services and drought-related advice.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

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