By Jeremy Sollars
All Queensland drought declarations remain unchanged – including for the Southern Downs Regional Council area – following an announcement by State Agriculture Minister Mark Furner.
In a statement released on Friday Mr Furner said “after a disappointing wet season, the total area of Queensland that is drought-declared remains unchanged at 67.4%”.
Mr Furner said Local Drought Committees (LDCs) had not recommended any changes to drought declarations due to a lack of drought-breaking rainfall.
“LDCs meet at least once a year, generally at the end of the summer rainfall period, to discuss the impact of seasonal conditions and make recommendations about the drought status of their area,” Mr Furner said.
“They found that while rainfall received during February-March was welcome, there was a lack of follow-up rainfall and the benefits were limited.
“There has been limited pasture growth, failed winter and summer crops in many areas, as well as significant concerns about stock, irrigation and rural domestic water supplies moving forward into our normally dry winter period.”
Mr Furner said that the lack of rain combined with well above-average temperatures in 2019 and early this year means there has been a serious impact on Queensland’s agricultural production.
“One bright note is that the seasonal climate outlook for winter and potentially into spring is looking more optimistic, especially compared to this time last year,” he said.
“This reflects changing sea surface temperatures in the Indian and Pacific oceans which may bring average, or possibly above average, rainfall to some areas over coming months.”
Mr Furner also announced that planned reforms to drought programs scheduled for this year would be delayed due to the impact of COVID-19 on producers.
“With so much of our focus on COVID-19 while having to maintain high levels of ongoing drought support, we are postponing the implementation of Drought Program Reforms until 1 July 2021,” Mr Furner said.
“These measures were based on agreed recommendations of the Independent Panel Drought Program Review and will improve drought and climate risk preparedness for future droughts and better align Queensland with the National Drought Agreement.
“The Queensland Government has already invested more than $745m in drought-affected industries and communities since the drought began.
“Another $74.6 million was allocated over four years in the 2019–20 budget to continue the Drought Assistance Package and there’s an additional $100 million for concessional loans to primary producers.
“I’d like to remind any producer who is experiencing difficult conditions in any council area that is not drought declared, that they can apply for an Individually Droughted Property (IDP) declaration. This gives them the same access to our drought assistance as an area declaration.”
Mr Furner advised producers in any drought-declared area who believed their property conditions were improved enough to allow restocking could have their property individually revoked.
“If their drought declaration is revoked, producers can access returning from agistment and restocking freight subsidies through the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme (DRAS) for up to two years after the end of the drought declaration,” he said.
“However, to be eligible for these subsidies producers must ensure their property’s drought declaration is first revoked before introducing any livestock.”
The drought declaration map can be viewed at longpaddock.qld.gov.au
For further information on drought assistance visit daf.qld.gov.au or call the Customer Service Centre on 13 25 23.