Thursday, June 30th, 2011 - Northern Territory Agricultural Association
After a meeting with Federal Minister for Primary Industry Joe Ludwig and cattle industry stakeholders in Darwin today(29th June 2011),people were left with the impression that the Minister still, does not understand the gravity of the situation for people on the ground and the real potential for many to go broke, lose their livelihoods and properties. The Minister was reluctant to talk about, let alone commit to any other industry assistance apart from the $3 million Centerlink support. People in the bush don't want unemployment benefits, they want to remain working in the industry and stay on farms and stations. The Northern Territory Agricultural Association, which represents mixed farmers and fodder producers presented Minister Ludwig with a range of support measures that will alleviate the plight of producers and assist small family businesses stay afloat. These strategies will cost the Government little in the long term but would be invaluable to the industry in the current climate.

If the trade is not resumed in full in the next few weeks the likely scenario will be a stockpile of hay in one area of the NT, and a rapid accumulation of hungry stock in other parts, with nobody having the money to transport or pay for the hay. With the onset of the wet much of this hay could be spoiled with producers having incurred all the production costs.

A number of strategies are being proposed by the Association.
1. Freight/fuel subsidy or rebates to move stock or hay, similar to drought assistance offered in other states. The fuel subsidy could also be used to assist with mustering costs and other on farm energy costs including pumping water and power generation etc.
2. Provide a fodder subsidy or rebate for stations/yards needing hay, by providing short-term interest free finance. Loans would then be paid back at favourable terms 12 months after the trade has resumed. This would get hay moving, allow stations to purchase hay as required to maintain stock health and welfare. This could be administered by the NT Government.
3. Short term interest free finance to hay producers for storage construction or covers for hay. This would insure that hay stocks are maintained and not ruined meaning hay can be held over and be available early next season given the potential needs of the industry.
4. Wage subsidies for stations and farms to keep workers on farm.  Getting and keeping staff in remote Australia is difficult but loosing good staff can cripple a business. This could be in lieu of the current assistance package, and it is preferable to keep existing staff than lose experienced people and have to try to recruit again.
5. Deferred tax returns and tax relief for farm businesses affected. Defering a liability until incme and trade is resumed will greatly alleviate financial and emotional stress on families and businesses. 

A combination of these measures would have the multiple effect of assisting producers meet their financial commitments, allow pastoralists access fodder to meet feed requirements and avoid a potential animal welfare issue later in the dry season.

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Northern Territory Agricultural Association


The Northern Territory Agricultural Association represents broadacre, mixed farming, fodder and forestry businesses in the Top End. It promotes the industries interests in relation land and water management, sustainable farming, development, agricultural policies and through targeted on-farm and extension and development projects.
Fergal O'Gara
P: 0416235734
M: 0416235734
W: www.ntaga.org.au/

Keywords

Live-cattle trade, animal welfare, livelihoods, support

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