Despite recent rains, the state continues to suffer the impact of drought.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro visited farmers and business owners in Marchmont and Yass on Monday for insights to their situation.
"The recent downpours were a welcome relief, but many parts of the state did not receive a single drop," said Mr Barilaro, who is also the Minister for Regional NSW. "Ninety nine percent of the state is still in drought and 37 percent of those [areas] are in severe drought.
"The drought is not over, far from it, and I want farmers, families and businesses to know that, while there has quite rightly been much attention given to firefighting and recovery efforts, our focus and commitment to drought support and response has not wavered. I am looking forward to the day I can say the drought has broken, but that day is not today."
During the visit on Monday, Mr Barilaro along with Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman visited both the farm of Yass Valley councillor Allison Harker in Marchmont, and La Barres Olives in Yass. They also travelled to meet people in Boorowa, Cowra and Orange.
"We talked about potential strategies that could have help producers in the current circumstances in the Yass Valley in the midst of drought," Mrs Tuckerman said. "He is aware that the drought has not broken for us and if we don'tr have changes in seasonal conditions, it won't change for some time. The discussions about what the government is doing and what it can potentially do to continue assistance."
Charlie de Nanteuil from La Barres Olives spoke about how the drought had been impacting his business. "Any conditions that make the production difficult obviously impact our business significantly," he said. "Even though the trees are healthy they have no fruit on them. We had reasonable flowering this season, but the trees were not able to hold fruit."
They had planted these trees in 1999 and had been in business for 20 years. Their expenses had also increased due to the drought. "In places where we are irrigating heavily because of drought, we are spending $80,000 on the electricity bill, which is a significant amount," Mr de Nanteuil said.
The local tour was intended to help the government develop policies and support. "We are now preparing for this year's Budget and want to make sure there are more budget measures to support farmers and regional communities," Mr Barilaro said. "As part of the tour, we are talking to different industries and businesses, whether they are sheep farmers or have an olive orchard, and how they are impacted by the drought. That is what today's tour will show us through this region."
Mr Barilaro said that, as of February 2020, more than $1.9 billion had been committed to the Emergency Drought Relief package to help farmers and regional communities, on top of the $1 billion Safe and Secure Water program, delivering water infrastructure to boost drought resilience.
"The support we have had up until this point will continue as we don't see the drought ending yet," Mr Barilaro said. "But the tour today will help us know what else can we do to support farmers and regional communities because the impact of the drought is felt beyond the farms. It is impacting the small businesses and cafes, sub-contractors as people can't afford to get things done on their property.
"It's a big ripple effect that is hurting the local and regional economies and in the end that could hurt the future of our regions. That's why it is important. As government, we remain focused on drought and what else we can do.
"We haven't stopped and we won't stop delivering for drought-affected communities. Despite the bushfires, the bushfire recovery operation and despite recent rain, our commitment to regional towns suffering through this overwhelming drought is unwavering"
Mrs Tuckerman said it was important the message was out that the drought was still impacting, even with the recent rains. "It's important that we are thinking as a government what it means with the Budget coming up. I am thrilled Mr Barilaro is here seeing those impacts and getting feedback from our farmers," Mrs Tuckerman said.
Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW Adam Marshall has said that despite the rainfall forecast, it will take months of sustained and widespread rainfall to break the drought.
"I'm sure many people have seen photos of green grass sprouting in some drought affected areas, but the reality is this recent growth is not that widespread and will provide only limited nutritional value for livestock," Mr Marshall said.
"In farming areas, stored soil moisture levels remain very low, which shows the recent rainfall hasn't provided the nourishing effect needed to improve conditions, while algal blooms and further fish kills remain a very real possibility across multiple regions."
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