A FARMER devastated by the Upper Murray bushfires in December says he would struggle to feed himself if drought assistance payments were cut.
Max Jephcott, who runs a wagyu beef cattle property at Tooma, learnt only yesterday the Federal Government decided last week to end exceptional circumstances assistance for farmers in the Hume region, which extends east from the Hume Highway through Tumbarumba Shire.
“I’m shocked that they’ve come to that,” Mr Jephcott said after being told by The Border Mail that assistance was to finish on March 31.
“That’s what I’m surviving on.
“I’ve got nothing else coming in, the animals are not putting on weight, they’re just surviving, they’re mainly on reserves.”
Mr Jephcott said without drought aid he would battle to feed himself and pay bills.
“I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to survive,” he said.
He said a full insurance payment had not been made and $15,000 he had received up front had gone towards fencing.
Mr Jephcott said farmers did not openly discuss their situations, but he had no doubt others would be in the same boat.
Member for Albury Greg Aplin has followed his federal Liberal Party colleague Sussan Ley in calling for federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke to reconsider the decision and continue aid for the Hume area.
“We have to realise February did bring reasonable rainfall over the month, but that in itself does not break the drought and the consequences of bad years will be around for sometime until the farmers have experienced a couple of years of worthwhile seasons,” Mr Aplin said.
“Then the exceptional circumstances can be phased out, but let’s get to that point and not be premature.”
Mr Aplin said the decision would hit the fire-stricken farmers “exceptionally hard” and he had been urged by Tumbarumba’s Mayor Ian Chaffey and economic development officer Chris Blake to overturn the decision.
He has written to NSW Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan urging him to convince Mr Burke to reverse the cuts.
Mr Burke in turn would refer Mr Whan’s appeal, which has to be made by March 31, to the National Rural Advisory Council.
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