Farmers still fighting on in drought-declared areas
THOUGH some might be forgiven for thinking this year's welcome rainfall spelled the end of the drought afflicting local farmers, the facts are far more unfavourable.
In truth, much of southeast Queensland, including the Lockyer Valley and Somerset regions, remain drought-declared zones, and farmers are still facing the same problems they were six months ago.
"Just look at where the levels are of other dams in the Lockyer. That indicates everything," grazier Ian Lindemayer said.
"That's where the underground water is as well, as bad as before the rain."
Mr Lindemayer has been involved with the farming industry for about 50 years, and is also a member of his local drought committee, giving him considerable insight into the difficulties farmers are facing.
"A few areas had better relief than others, but generally when you see so much soil around Gatton that's not being cropped, there's only one reason for it: there's no water," he said.
"Going into Gatton, you can see how dead the lawns are. Winter's only just starting to happen, there's been no frost or anything, it's just dry weather that's done what's happened to them."
He said the rain, while welcome, had not been nearly enough to turn things around for farmers.
The rain came at a time when there wasn't a lot of cropping underway, and because most of the falls were heavy, it led to significant run-off, whereas lighter rain would have soaked into the subsoil.
"It was a good fall, but to break the drought we need follow-ups from there on," he said.
"In-between then and now we've had a lot of up-there temperatures. A week or so ago we had a 36-degree day, which broke a lot of records."
These circumstances are further compounded by the current pandemic emergency, which has caused farmers to lose out on customers and workers.
"To a big extent, the markets aren't operating. Coles and Woolworths have their suppliers that they're contracted with, but a lot of other farmers supply to the restaurant and hotel side, and they're out of business," Mr Lindemayer said.
"We're hoping this coronavirus will settle by the time we get to harvesting our onions later in the year. Now is the window to plant that sort of stuff, if you don't plant now you miss out."
There is assistance available to those who are struggling with this sort of situation, with a variety of subsidies, rebates, and grants available through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and other organisations.
The Department is also hosting new, free public webinars on the subjects of planning for, and recovering from, the drought.
The sessions are available to anyone who registers, with a broad range of advice for all animal farm operators, including smaller landholders and hobby farmers who keep cattle, horses, goats or sheep.
The webinars will be taking place from 12.30pm to 1.30pm on May 6, 8, and 11, each session covering different topics.
More information can be found on the DAF website.