A farmer in Queensland’s drought-stricken Longreach area has welcomed the $320 million federal relief package but wants to see longer-term solutions.
Farmer Sam Coxon is going to refinance his debt now the federal government has poured $320 million into drought relief.
It’s been more than a year and a half since decent rain fell on his Kateroy property, west of Longreach in Queensland.
The 60 millimetres received in recent weeks wasn’t enough to fill dams nor green the grass to a point which would support Mr Coxon’s 90 cows and 2000 sheep.
A further 700 sheep will have to be sold, with livestock numbers dwindling to less than half their normal level.
“In eight of 10 years I’m profitable,” he told AAP.
“But since the last drought we hadn’t had enough time to get fat on to get us through this one.
“The live export crisis has really knocked the financial stuffing out of Australia.”
The worst drought in decades covers 70 per cent of Queensland and more southwest regions are expected to be drought declared in the coming weeks.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott unveiled the $320 million assistance package on Wednesday, which includes increased access to a five-year concessional loan scheme worth $280 million, mental health support, and more money for wild dog control.
Mr Coxon, who has recently lost 50 sheep to wild dogs, welcomed the package.
While it will allow him to refinance the $230,000 worth of debt racked up in the last two years, he wants to see longer-term solutions such as increasing competition in the meat packaging industry.
“We need to look at the reason why the beef in United States sells for twice the amount as it does in Australia,” he said.
“We’re being underpaid for our beef purely because there is such a monopoly in the beef production market.”
Farming lobby group AgForce thanked the federal government for the additional funding but said it had been hoping for direct wage assistance for farm workers and a lower interest rate on the concessional loan scheme, which has been set at four per cent over five years.
Opposition agriculture spokesman Tim Mulherin called for the state-funded Rural Financial Counsellor scheme, abolished by the Newman government in 2012, to be re-introduced.
Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh said he expected the state would get a significant portion of the $320 million.
“It is a here and now response, which is great, but of course the longer term the challenge remains that we fine tune drought policy for any such events in the future,” he said.
“We have got to deal with the current drought, then we’ll move on to those solid discussions.”