HORTICULTURALISTS have been “just shoved aside” by state and federal governments during the drought, NSW Farmers’ Association horticulture committee chair Guy Gaeta says.
Millions of dollars in financial loans, subsidies, waivers, support, tools and other drought initiatives might have been announced in the past 12 months, but he said very little of it will help horticulturalists.
“I’m really cheesed off with the state and federal governments because unless they’ve got four legs and a tail they don’t care about us,” he said. “Everything that has been announced is for farmers with livestock.
“It’s shameful, I would have thought a farmer was a farmer, but obviously it’s not.”
Mr Gaeta said he uses water in his dams to supplement the lack of rain, but the dams on his property had almost dried up.
“I’ve only got 10 per cent of the usual water we store, we’re in dire straits,” he said.
Mr Gaeta runs an apple and cherry orchard in Orange and said that unlike a grazier who can sell-off stock if required, his trees will die if they don’t get enough water.
“It takes about six or seven years before a tree will produce fruit, but a sheep or cow can be sold off before it dies of thirst,” he said.
“I just feel down in the dumps … which trees do I water and which ones do I let die?
“It’s a really dire situation right now and we’re just clinging at straws.”
Central West agronomist Glenn Shepherd disagreed and said while the drought had made if very hard, there had been good government support.
Tough, dry conditions were not unusual in this part of the state, but he said the long-running drought had put even the most “progressive farmer” to the test.
“There were some people that didn’t even plant a seed [last year],” he said. “Even for the crops that did hang in there, rainfall was in frequent.
“If people were doing mixed farming, they were able to take advantage of historically high stock prices … if you had crops that were failing you could take advantage of the stock sales.
Mr Shepherd said many farmers had systems in place to cope with extended dry weather, but for some the common practice of dry-sowing seeds would not even work last year.
He said another challenge was the ongoing and unavoidable costs of machinery and labour which were there “regardless of planting a seed or running cattle”.
Mr Gaeta also claimed the NSW Government charged farmers for using water from their own dams..
“We’re still getting charged for water even though we don’t get any,” he said of the lack of rain.
Mr Gaeta said government regulations meant he was no longer able to sink bore holes into his land to increase water storage capacity.