22 Jan 2010

More help possible for drought-hit farmers

4:01 pm on 22 January 2010

The Agriculture Minister says he'll look at extending welfare assistance for farmers in Northland if the drought there continues.

On Friday, David Carter and fellow ministers Phil Heatley and John Carter - who is also Northland's MP - visited farms in the region, many of which have had no significant rain for three months.

Earlier in the week, the Government declared a medium-level drought, which enabled it to announce an assistance package for farmers that includes tax relief, welfare support, farm management advice and funding for rural support trusts to provide help.

Mr Carter says, however, that some farming families may not be eligible for welfare assistance because of having too many assets, and he'll look at changing that if the drought continues.

He has already said that if there is low rainfall through to March, as is predicted, there will not be enough grass to feed livestock in many areas.

Mr Carter says the drought is causing a lot of stress in rural Northland. Some Northland dairy farmers say they face a 30% drop in production.

'Worst since the 1980s' - trust coordinator

A record dry November and challenging spring conditions have affected all three Northland districts - the Far North, Whangarei and Kaipara.

The drought declaration, on Wednesday, was requested by Northland's Rural Support Trust, whose coordinator, Helen Moodie, says the drought conditions are the worst since the early 1980s.

She says beef farmers are culling their animals early, which severely affects their income.