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   May 21

Graziers meet with minister

Winton councillor and grazier Emma Forster said the next wet season may come too late for many stations in debt.
Nanjing Night Net

GRAZIERS across the country assembled in a Winton hall in December urging banks and governments to do something to fix rural debt.

Their stories of foreclosures and evictions at the Rural Debt Crisis Summit made people in the cities take notice, and motivated banking giant ANZ to place a 12-month moratorium on farm foreclosures.

However, the crisis has reached a worse point than it had seven months ago when the summit was held, according to Winton councillor and Werna Station owner Emma Forster.

“We were all hoping we would get a wet season but we did not,” Cr Forster said.

“I really don’t think the state or federal government stood up and listened after that big summit in Winton, they really need to step (up) now and get in on the industry before they have a big mess to clean up and there’s no farmers left out here.”

Cr Forster said she had less than half her breeding herd compared to when the drought began, and it was costly to sustain them.

Rain would not be enough to help graziers who used all their financial reserves and lost their breeding herds.

“One of the biggest issues after it does rain is it doesn’t rain money,” Cr Forster said.

“Because when it does rain, with the shortage of cattle, everyone is running with less breeders than what they should, which are going to be bringing a premium price.”

Cr Forster is among a committee of graziers that met privately with Queensland Agricultural Minister Bill Byrne in McKinlay on Wednesday.

After the meeting, Mr Byrne acknowledged the government was expected to do more to assist graziers facing increased financial pressure.

“There is an obligation on governments to do what it can to assist during those periods of pressure,” he said.

“So that’s what we’re here to talk about, what’s effective, what is ineffective, and if necessary what opportunities may be going forward if this continues.”

He said the government had no timeframe in place to aid graziers.

State member for Mount Isa Rob Katter – who co-ordinated last year’s summit – said the pastoral industry had a year to make the state government commit to meaningful assistance before the next election cycle.

He described rural debt as a “do or die” issue for his electorate because most communities in his electorate, excluding Mount Isa and Cloncurry, relied heavily on the cattle industry.

Mr Katter said the solution to rural debt was a reconstruction board, which would loan more money to graziers, and it was not a “hand out” because the money would eventually be returned to the taxpayer.

Graziers were not in debt because they bought too much property, Mr Katter said.

“It’s just they cannot ride the bad years like they used to because the good years aren’t as good,’’ he said.

“They can get through the tough years but then through a live export ban caused by a (federal) political decision and three years of drought, I challenge any business person to get through that.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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