Report from BusinessDesk by Paul McBeth
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has officially declared the drought to be across the whole of the North Island, opening up access to welfare for farmers stricken by the arid conditions.
The extension to the declaration means the rest of the North Island joins Northland, North Auckland, South Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay as being officially in a drought. Some parts of the South Island, Grey and Buller districts in particular, are also being watched, and low hydro lake levels have prompted the Bluff aluminium smelter to pare back production.
“It has become clear that nearly all farmers in every part of the North Island are facing very difficult dry conditions,” Guy said. “Many rural people can be reluctant to ask for help, but it is important to know that support is available.”
The declaration comes after Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler warned yesterday if substantial rain doesn’t arrive soon, the country could face a similar event as that in 2007/08, which shaved 1 percent from the economy. The impact so far has reduced 0.2 to 0.3 of a percentage point from gross domestic product in the first half of this year, according to central bank forecasts.
Work and Income will offer rural assistance payments, which are the equivalent of the unemployment benefit, to people in extreme hardship, and extra government funding is available to Rural Support Trusts.
Read also: Rain on Sunday and Monday?
Press Release – Federated Farmers
Federated Farmers welcomes confirmation that the entire North Island has been declared a medium scale adverse event due to drought. The West Coast is today forwarding its request to the Ministry for Primary Industries for a medium scale adverse event declaration.
“The 2012-13 drought came late in the season but is North Island wide and that’s something Wellingtonians know all too well,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Adverse Events spokesperson.
“I can now confirm the West Coast of the South Island is also requesting a medium scale adverse event declaration due to drought.
“This lack of rain remains a concern with soil moisture deficits pushing upwards of 150mm. Even with steady rain it will take time to correct but with each passing day winter closes in.
“To show the public what farmers are doing, Federated Farmers is holding ‘Farming in Drought’ Farm Days this Sunday in Rotorua and Wellington. All the details are at www.farmday.org.nz. We are holding another one near Tauranga next Sunday (24 March).
“The good news is that the feed markets seem to be working well. Feed supplies were reinforced this week by feed coming up from the South Island.
“Federated Farmers sincerely thanks the hard work being put in by all the rural and feed supply merchants, contractors and truckers. We would also like to single out David Clark, Federated Farmers Grain & Seed Vice-Chairperson, for taking a leadership role around South Island feed.
“It will be a long, slow grind out of drought for the North Island with parts of the South Island now convening drought meetings too
“Given the Rural Support Trusts run on the smell of an oily rag and are volunteer driven, I think the entire rural community will welcome the extra funding they will receive. This is about funding advice and counselling services.
“It is why the biggest boost these declarations give farmers from Tararua to Auckland is psychological. It tells farmers they have not stuffed up and it is okay to ask your mates, your bank and the Rural Support Trusts for advice,” Mrs Milne concluded.
What an adverse event declaration means:
For farmers, a medium scale adverse event declaration recognises that events have gone beyond the control of individual farmers and that it is not their fault.
Rural Support Trusts can coordinate and deliver farm advisory and counselling services. This advice is invaluable in aiding business recovery and helping individual families cope with the stresses caused.
A declaration also triggers discretion from Inland Revenue on things like Income Equalisation. This allows Inland Revenue to accept later deposits to the income equalisation scheme than is usual, but needs to be arranged by a farm’s accountant.
Any declaration formally confirms to the banks how bad things are. The Federation recommends that farmers speak to their rural manager because keeping the banks fully informed means they will work with you.
While there are benefits called Rural Assistance Payments or RAP’s. Very few farmers will qualify as these are strictly administered for genuine hardship and are subject to asset and means testing. Support from the Ministry for Social Development and Inland Revenue may prove beneficial to farm workers and their families.
Federated Farmers has its 0800 DROUGHT (0800 376 844) feed line and Federated Farmers Grain & Seed Industry Group is working with feed merchants to get feed into the North Island.
Finally, the industry good bodies funded by farmers, such as DairyNZ, Beef+Lamb NZ and FAR are able to provide on-farm advice and guidance to affected farmers.
Farm advice in drought-like conditions:
An updated Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) advice note on drought is available here while MPI drought publications are available here.
Beef+Lamb NZ drought advice is available here.
DairyNZ drought advice is available here.
Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) Advice Note “Response of Maize to Drought Stress” is available here
MetService Rural is available here. WeatherWatch is available here.
Individual support for farmers:
Federated Farmers Feed Line on 0800 DROUGHT (0800 376 844) and is available here.
The Rural Support Trust’s are on 0800 787 254 and is available here.
Information on Inland Revenue Income Equalisation Scheme (Special Provisions) is available here.
Coping with stress and depression is available here.