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Barnaby talks to banks, Salvos visit desperate farmers

By Jane Norman, Kerrin Thomas and ABC's AM program, Friday February 7, 2014 - 20:39 EDT
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Federal Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, in Tamworth (file photo). January 24, 2014. - ABC

The member for New England and Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has revealed he's held talks with all the nation's banks as part of a drought relief package he's developing for Cabinet.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister flagged plans to bring forward the introduction of a farm income support package, scheduled to commence in July.

Mr Joyce has told ABC's AM program it's not in the interests of financial institutions to foreclose on farmers.

"Well, because people understand that it's a viable industry and they want to make sure it works in the long run," he said.

"There is certainly a viable industry there and if we just add water we'll get back to it [because] we're just lacking the final water because it's a drought."

Meantime, a rural chaplain with the Salvation Army says he's worried depression is on the rise among farmers battling the drought.

Peter Ridley has visited Narrabri, Pilliga, Gwabegar and Burren Junction offering emotional support to struggling farm households.

He says he is seeing signs of depression in some landholders and it's clear they need to talk over what's happening to them.

"We're just chatting with farmers on farm, talking to them about how they're going, and what's happening for them and listening to their story because we think that's very important," he said.

"Depression in the bush has really come back with a vengeance and we want to ensure we catch people who have the beginning signs of depression early, so that it doesn't escalate."

Peter Ridley says farmers are pretty tough but he says they're telling him this drought is one of the worst they've ever seen.

"Farmers are the most resilient people I've ever met, but this drought is different; in this drought the biggest problem for our farmers is water," he said.

"We faced this problem in the last drought, but not to this degree, and now farmers are running out of water for stock and they're running out of water to drink themselves."


© ABC 2014

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