DRY DAYS: This past summer was the worst in terms of rainfall that Evan Black has experienced in decades.
DRY DAYS: This past summer was the worst in terms of rainfall that Evan Black has experienced in decades. Katherine Morris

South Burnett farmer: 'This was the worst summer since 1965'

IN 60 years of farming, Evan Black has never experienced such a poor wet season as this past summer.

The Barkers Creek Flat farmer said the last time he had such a poor summer of farming was in 1965.

The South Burnett and Cherbourg council regions were drought declared at the weekend after local drought committees made recommendations to Agriculture Minister, Bill Byrne.

The declaration came a month earlier than committees would normally make a decision.

At this stage 87.4% of Queensland is drought declared.

Mr Black said Kingaroy and Nanango are 200mm of rain short of their natural target.

He said the drought declaration was absolutely essential for the South Burnett.

"Many areas are completely dry of water, feed is running out fast and the drought declaration helps individual farmers,” Mr Black said.

"The South Burnett seems to have suffered terribly around Kingaroy and Nanango, it's a pretty bleak future for the farming community with winter coming and the forecast is not real good for the rest of the season.”

Mr Black got 30mm of rain last weekend and said it was the biggest fall he had received since April.

Some of his sorghum crop is six weeks behind where it should be, because of a lack of sub-soil moisture.

He said heat wave conditions last month had added to the problem.

Mr Black said he hadn't put his mung beans in and the seed was still in the shed, which was the best outcome.

He has lucerne, sorghum and corn in the ground and only planted about 10% of his crop this year.

"Three days after irrigating the crops were wilting again,” he said.

In parliament last week Deb Frecklington called for the South Burnett to be drought declared early after Bundaberg was, to allow for more transparency in how these decisions are made.

"I took the opportunity in parliament last week to raise the issue of drought declarations and revocations and the role of local drought committees,” Mrs Frecklington said.

"I understand primary producers can apply for an Individually Droughted Property, but since the South Burnett was revoked on April 15 last year, many people have asked me how, and why this occurred.

"On September 15 2016, I also asked a Question on Notice to the then Minister for Agriculture about our local South Burnett Drought Committee and how it works,” Mrs Frecklington said.

"The response noted that details of membership and minutes of meetings are confidential to protect the identities of the members, given the sensitive nature of their tasks and decisions.

"However, it leaves primary producers in the dark over how decisions about drought are made. These decisions impact upon thousands of small businesses. It effects their daily operations, future business decisions and of course, their bottom line.

"I'm calling for more transparency when it comes to the Drought Committees and information to be shared about how their decisions are made.

"There has been patchy rainfall, but in general, the area is bone dry, especially in places like the Barkers Creek Flats, Gordonbrook, Kumbia and Windera.”

Mr Byrne accepted the recommendations of local drought committees that seven more regions be added to the list of shires officially in-drought on Saturday.

"On Tuesday I asked local drought committees across south-east Queensland to meet at their earliest opportunity to recommend whether their shires should be drought declared,” he said.

"The committees would normally expect to meet during April but I asked them to bring their meetings forward because of the lack of rain during the wet season.”

Mr Byrne said the declarations were effective immediately.

"These latest declarations bring the total area of Queensland where drought is declared to 87.47%,” he said.

"That is the highest ever and I am still waiting for some committees to send me their recommendations.”

"I have been advised that while some parts of south-east Queensland have received some patchy storm rainfall over the summer season, good general rainfall across the whole region has not been received.”

Drought committees usually meet once a year, at the end of the wet-season in April and the Minister normally announces declarations and revocations in late April or early May.

The threshold for a drought declaration is generally a once in 10 to 15 year rainfall deficiency.

Drought declared producers are able to access DRAS fodder and water freight subsidies and emergency water infrastructure rebates as well as access to other programs in the Queensland Drought Assistance Package if they are eligible.

This includes relief from electricity charges, land rent rebates and water licence waivers as well as access to a number of community and mental health programs.

The drought-declared map on longpaddock.qld.gov.au will be updated next week.

For more information phone 132523 or visit daf.qld.gov.au.

DRAS provides three assistance measures while an area or property is drought declared, and two assistance measures after the drought declaration is revoked.

Producers with a property that is currently drought declared may be eligible for:

  • Freight subsidies for transporting fodder and water.
  • The Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate (EWIR), which provides a rebate on the purchase and installation of water infrastructure installed for emergency animal welfare.

Producers with a property that has had its drought declaration revoked may be eligible for:

  • Freight subsidies for transporting livestock returning from agistment, or purchased for restocking.
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