Mid North farmers battling drought

World's End farmer Simon Schmidt shows SA-Best Member of the Legislative Council Frank Pangallo one of his drought stricken properties.
World's End farmer Simon Schmidt shows SA-Best Member of the Legislative Council Frank Pangallo one of his drought stricken properties.

Farmers in Robertstown are calling for parts of South Australia to be drought declared.

While the country’s eastern states battle the barren conditions, farmers in SA are feeling frustrated by the lack of support from the state government.

Simon Schmidt, who owns farming land in World’s End and Robertstown, has seen his crops destroyed by frost, hail and fire over the past few years.

But he said drought conditions this year are the worst he has ever seen.

“It is the worst anyone has seen, it is the worst my dad has seen and he is 76,” he said.

Statistics from the Bureau of Meteorology show that Robertstown has seen about 90 milliltires of rain this year, with 19.6ml falling in July.

For Mr Schmidt, he has seen just 50ml fall on his properties, some seeing even less than that.

Dust and dirt stretches out as far as the eye can see with a rare green patch providing just a glimmer of hope.

Mr Schmidt usually runs over 1000 sheep on his pastoral land but this year he has dramatically reduced that number to 140.

Most sheep in the area run free to give them some chance of survival.

Mr Schmidt has had some of his land de-stocked, but has still lost large amounts of topsoil due to drift.

Despite the trying times, Mr Schmidt remains optimistic that a big rain will come before Christmas.

“You have to remain optimistic,” he said.

“If you let it get to you, you won’t get up in the morning and that is when it gets to. You have to keep going until you can or until you financially can’t, and that is what happens to the farmers that can’t.

“The beauty of it is a few years ago we did have a couple of good years.”

On Thursday morning, SA-Best Member of the Legislative Council Frank Pangallo was given a tour of the pastoral land by Mr Schmidt.

Mr Pangallo said he would call on Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone to come and see the conditions first hand.

“We will demand that the state government declares this a drought effected area to give some relief to a lot of the farmers that are doing it tough here,” he said

South Australians have already shown their support for farmers in the eastern states through the Parma for a Farmer campaign.

However, SA farmers had not been able to receive any support from Rural Aid’s Buy A Bale program until recently.

The state was recently added to the program which allowed SA farmers to register online.

In July the federal government announced an additional $12,000 in lump sump payments under the Farm Household Allowance scheme.

Mr Schmidt said he was not interested in the money, citing hay as the most crucial thing in helping his family push on.

“Honestly for myself I do not want a hand out, but I would happy to help others,” he said.

“To us a bit of hay and I would be happy, if we can keep feeding our stock it keeps us motivated.”

During an interview with ABC’s Country Hour on July 31, Mr Whetstone said “I don’t want to say drought until we have to say the word.”

Mr Schmidt said it was “demoralizing” seeing the government’s refusal to declare drought.

During his visit on Thursday, Mr Pangallo said he himself did not realise how bad parts of the state were.

“Not many South Australian’s know that there are farmers that are in a severely drought effected area. For some of it, it is the worst conditions in over a hundred years,” he said.

“South Australians need to realise our farmers are doing it tough.”

Currently Parliament is adjourned for the winter break and are scheduled to sit again on September 4.

Upon their return, Mr Pangallo plans to urge the state government to reconsider its position.