With milk production sharply down on the same point in 2016 and beef prices sliding, Northland MP and New Zealand First Leader Rt Hon Winston Peters, has welcomed the declaration of a medium-scale adverse event in Northland.
“As Northland’s MP I wrote to Minister Guy on 16 January alerting him to the growing problem faced by Northland so today’s announcement is welcome,” Mr Peters says.
“Northland is losing soil moisture each day and relentless wind isn’t helping. The meteorological experts say we are stuck in a neutral weather pattern and will be for some time yet.
“Even if it broke today, the effects of this drought will continue well into the spring. Dry matter production has crashed to almost nothing and serious damage is being done to vital feed crops.
“While the forecast milk payout is slightly above breakeven that’s moot if you are down to once a day milking or are drying off parts of the herd. For drystock farmers, the issue is that the cost of supplementary feed cannot be justified. The challenge for them is to hold onto breeding stock.
“The best part of the declaration means that the Northland Rural Support Trust can kick into gear with advisory and counselling services.
“There are a range of tax measures but the main one, Income Equalisation, which is used to smooth seasonal income will not likely be of much benefit. Many farmers, especially dairy, would have accessed deposits made during last year’s low payout and cannot claim back deposits in two consecutive tax years.
“Minister Guy will no doubt make much of Rural Assistance Payments (RAP) but this is the dole rebadged. As such it is means and asset tested like any other benefit and very few farmers will qualify unless they happen to lose everything.
“With an artificially high dollar damaging exports and about which the government does nothing farm incomes are seriously depressed.
“What could benefit affected farmers would be accelerated depreciation on farm environmental works and government increasing the current $58,000 limit on what is called ‘consumable aids’ as these include vital things like stock feed and seeds.
“As for the medium term we need to see real progress on the current irrigation study,” says Mr Peters.