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Forgotten drought: South Australian farmers call for more support

Lauren Waldhuter, Sunday February 8, 2015 - 13:44 EDT

Pastoralists in South Australia's far north have criticised the State Government for acting too slowly, as federal drought funding flows to the eastern states.

Parts of the north east pastoral region have had little rain over the past two years but SA farmers haven't qualified for Commonwealth drought funding.

Sharon Oldfield from Cowarie Station, 900 kilometres north of Adelaide, says the situation is getting very serious.

"It's a very patchy drought but this drought is much worse than the one we've just gone through," she says.

"We started de-stocking last year, we've just done another round of de-stocking and we're down to hardly any numbers again.

"I've got an $80,000 freight account that has to be paid and it's going to cost me $15,000 a month to agist them.

"At the end of the day I'm still trying to make decisions with no rain and I don't know how you do that."

State Government offers a start

While on a tour of the region South Australian Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell committed $275,000 to help struggling pastoralists.

The money will be distributed by industry group LivestockSA for water infrastructure and pest management.

Minister Bignell says it's just a start and he still wants to secure federal funding but hasn't been able to come an agreement with the Commonwealth yet.

"We are in a federation, it would be fair if the Federal Government actually treated South Australia in the same way it did Queensland and New South Wales," he says.

"There were proposals put forward before I became the Minister and I've written to Minister Joyce a couple of times.

"But while the debate is going on we actually need to get some money on the ground which is what this [$275,000] is all about."

Time is of the essence

Pastoralists have welcomed the funding but agree there needs to be more as conditions continue to decline.

Farmers in other parts of the north who haven't been as severely affected yet say the next six months will be crucial.

Mike Sheehan from Moolawatana Station says the cattle on his place are holding on - for now.

"We are in an emerging drought," he says.

"It's not quite got there yet because our cattle are still in reasonable order.

"But by November, December when the hot weather starts and it hasn't rained, it's going to be right in it."


© ABC 2015

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