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Even if it rains farmers may leave drought stricken farms

Dry cracked earth on Cameron Saal's property at Brookstead.
Dry cracked earth on Cameron Saal's property at Brookstead. Kevin Farmer

EVEN IF flooding rains drench drought-stricken regions of Queensland and New South Wales today, farmers may still abandon family properties tended for generations.

Nationals' leader, deputy Prime Minister and Wide Bay MP Warren Truss called the drought "a natural disaster" deserving of the same support offered to flood, fire or cyclone victims.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday conceded "more needs to be done" but that help would be balanced against keeping the government "fiscally responsible".

While the two sides of the Coalition coin discuss the crisis, Roma farmer Charles Nason expects the drought is forming some producers to shoot calves to protect their breeding cattle.

His property spans 10,000 hectares, with 900 heads of cattle.

Mr Nason said while not common, heifers struggling in the drought conditions could barely sustain their suckling calves, putting the mother and future calvies at risk.

It was just one of the horrifying decisions for farmers to make as they grapple with the dry.

He said after 12 years of lacklustre farming conditions - whether caused by flood or drought - producers are short of cash but long on debt.

"Even if it rains tomorrow, a fair number will not survive financially," Mr Nason said.

"An equal number have had enough and will try to go.

"It may get to the stage it did in the 1930s where people owed more than they were worth and they simply walked off - people are just at the end of their tether."

Mr Nason said a lack of national agriculture policy meant there was no vision or plan when industry struggled.

He likened the battle to an old tale about two men in the woods being chased by a bear.

One stops to put on running shoes and the other asks why.

"I don't need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you."

Mr Nason said for too long farmers have focused on competitors instead of the bear - in this case, government policy.

"The drought is a symptom of a problem: there is not enough margin in farming to put money aside for bad times.

"Really there's no way out."

Nationals deputy and agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce is now putting together a major plan to help producers, a barrow he will push in the coming Parliamentary sitting week.

The reforms could include proposed changes to drought assistance, the creation of a rural development bank and increased financial support.

Topics:  assistance drought farming


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