Councillor Armstrong wrote last week about the dire situation facing many communities as water storages drop to seriously low levels with no prospect of rain in sight to replenish supplies. The prolonged dry weather is having a severe impact on rural communities with the prospect of a significant crop failure for the second year in a row for many producers in the South West farming regions.
Agricultural production accounts for around $380 million worth of GDP in the Hilltops Council Area which is by far the largest industry. A 30-50% reduction in income will equate to a loss of between $120 million and $180 million out of the local economy. That is a huge amount of money by anyone’s reckoning and likely to have a major impact on the small businesses of Harden, Young and Boorowa as the farming community are forced to cut back expenditure.
As we head into summer, it is a particularly difficult time for many producers as they are forced to cut crops for hay to salvage what they can to feed their own stock or sell to get some income. Surplus stock are being sold where they cannot justify the cost of feeding them. For our family it will be the 5th time in 14 years that I have been forced to bale some of our crop rather than harvest it. We have been very fortunate in recent years, that stock prices have been good and therefore the decision to bale crops can be justified.
Whilst the process can be mentally draining, it has been made a lot easier by the strong support of a fantastic group of agronomists and advisors who are employed by various agronomic businesses throughout the region. They do an amazing job going around the farms accessing crops and helping with budgets and the decision making process during these tough times. Their businesses and that of many other small businesses are just as dependent on rain as the local farming community is. Having these advisors to talk to and weigh up the various options certainly makes the process less daunting.
The more heads you put together to solve a problem the more likely you are to come up with an informed decision. Having a plan in place does not guarantee a good outcome but it does give it direction in which to head and a means of getting there. – Councillor Tony Flanery
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