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Drought is forcing farmers to sacrifice

DROUGHT DECLARED: Farmer Scott Dowling had to let this patch of mung bean die due to lack of rain.
DROUGHT DECLARED: Farmer Scott Dowling had to let this patch of mung bean die due to lack of rain. Jack Lawrie

WHEN drought was officially declared in the North Burnett, the writing had already been on the wall for farmers.

In a difficult planting season due to sporadic rainfall, even those with access to irrigation have struggled.

Farmer Scott Dowling says it's been the driest year for him since 1996.

"It's just a matter of keeping everything alive and hoping we get some rain to give things a chance," Mr Dowling said.

Traditionally, farmers in the area plant in January assuming they'll get good summer rainfall.

But this year, rain has been so sporadic and scattered.

Mr Dowling planted 400 acres of mung beans, but has only been able to water 270, and of that only 150 are able to get fully watered.

An entire patch of mung bean on his property now lies dead, having been sacrificed to keep the rest alive with the water they've been allocated.

The advantage now for farmers in the Monto area such as Mr Dowling is the water in Cania Dam, but keeping crop constantly irrigated has its own share of difficulties.

"Electricity's our big killer this year," Mr Dowling said.

"Last year each pump cost about $10,000 a quarter to keep going and it's gone up a lot since then."

Monto farmers are relatively lucky to have dam water as a small safety net.

For the rest of the region, it will be more important to declare for drought as soon as possible.

Acting Mayor Faye Whelan said primary producers across the region have had a tough time of it between drought and flooding.

"Some people have been fortunate to have storm rain, but it's fallen over a very small area," Cr Whelan said.

"All told, nobody has had substantial rain, so that's why the blanket declaration has gone right over."

The dry farmers and cattle farmers have had it particularly rough, with water supplies coming in low, making it hard to feed stock.

Farmer Fred Jarvis said he was concerned how the drought would affect his cattle.

"For us, we're going to run out of feed for them, so that's put real pressure on us. The only thing we can do is try and sell off stock just to get by," he said.

Drought-declared producers can claim subsidies from the Department of Agriculture for water and fodder freight, electricity charge relief and more.

Producers wanting to know more can call 132523 or visit www.daf.qld.gov.au for Drought Relief Assistance Scheme information.

Topics:  drought-affected farmers mung beans north burnett scott dowling summer rain



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