NEW South Wales Farmers and the Country Women’s Association held a parliamentary briefing on Tuesday, asking the government for a financial support package of $25,000 per farm business to assist with baiting costs caused by the ceaseless mouse plague.
Following accusations made by Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall yesterday, saying NSW Farmers were “playing politics” and the briefing was a PR stunt, the NSW Government today announced a $50 million fund to help combat the plague.
Free baiting, through free-of-charge grain treatment, will be made available to primary producers, while affected rural and town households and small businesses will be able to apply for baiting rebates through Service NSW.
The government has also sought urgent approval from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to give farmers access to bromadiolone, the most potent fast-acting rodenticide.
NSW Farmers Chief Executive Officer Peter Arkle said getting the treatment stations up and running before spring is a crucial step towards protecting the spring grain harvest.
“We have been calling on the government to establish these treatment stations where farmers can take their own grain to sites and have it treated with mouse chemicals, so we do see that as a really positive step forward,” Mr Arkle said.
“We’re really concerned that the forecasts are for a wet and warm winter, which is likely to mean the mouse population will survive through winter and we’ll see resurgences in spring, as we come into grain harvest,” he said.
“The plague is a long way form being over and is likely to get worse before it gets better,” Mr Arkle said.
“We’ll be re-engaging with Minister Marshall later today to look at the rollout plan but we need to get moving on this because we’ll be in springtime before we know it and we need to get on top of these mice,” he said.
The mouse plague package includes:
- $500 rebates for eligible households;
- $1,000 rebates for eligible small businesses;
- Free mice bait in the form or grain treatment for farmers;
- The NSW Government seeking urgent approval from the Commonwealth’s APVMA for the use of bromadiolone in NSW;
- Expanded workshops to educate farmers on the best eradication strategies;
- A research project to identify and potentially develop a new mice-killing agent.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said an extensive advisory committee will be established, made up of representatives from the Department of Regional NSW, Local Land Services, Department of Primary Industries, Resilience NSW, NSW Health, Service NSW, NSW Food Authority, Office of Small Business Commissioner, the Office of Local Government and the CSIRO.
“We know the financial pressure this mice plague is putting on farmers and household budgets, we have heard the concerns of regional NSW and we are acting on it,” Mr Barilaro said.
“I am also forming an advisory committee to ensure everyone has access to expert advice, including the latest hot spots, health and food safety advice, information for vets and guidance for keeping children and animals safe,” he said.
In addition to free grain treatment and expert workshops, the NSW Department of Primary Industries will also launch a research body to identify and potentially develop future tools to combat mice plagues, including biological controls.
Mr Arkle said the agricultural outlook remains positive and researching better long-term solutions will be important to protect farmers.
“We need to turn our best researchers’ minds to the challenge of mice. I think with minimum till being commonplace on a lot of grain farms, we’re likely to see an increase in populations over time,” Mr Arkle said.
“We completed a mouse plague survey, it had an overwhelming response showing the depth of the economic impact of the mouse plague, such as the cost of bait, lost hay, lost fodder, the cost of cleaning grain to deliver to customers or export sites,” he said.
“What also really shone through was the mental health dimensions of this plague, which is causing immense stress on farming families and businesses,” he said.
“For guys that have done so well and have filled up hay sheds, prepared for the next drought, to have mice eat that is pretty heartbreaking. The long-term outlook for agriculture remains positive so with this funding support, let’s hope we can get through it,” said Mr Arkle.
For the latest information about the mice plague, eligibility, how rebates will be claimed as well as health advice, visit: www.nsw.gov.au/mice.
During question time yesterday, the Deputy Premier accused NSW Farmers and CEO Peter Arkle of playing politics and attacking the government.
“When they actually ask the Minister for Agriculture about attending an event on Tuesday of this week, he clearly indicated we had our joint party room meeting and fifty percent of the parliament would not be able to attend. All they had to do was change that time slot . . . but they chose not to,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Then for New South Wales Farmers and for Mr Arkle to get out in front of a camera and attack the Minister and attack the government, well guess what, he is playing politics because he’s had an opportunity, he’s got my number and he hasn’t spoken to me about that issue,” he said.
NSW Farmers released a statement saying that suggestions the briefing was politically motivated is offensive to the families, businesses and communities who are enduring immense stress and hardship in the face of unprecedented mouse numbers.
It further stated the two organisations did not receive a request to change the time of the briefing so more parliamentarians could attend.
Following the morning briefing, the CWA was granted a meeting with Agricultural Minister Adam Marshall and was able to further communicate the extent and severity of the mouse plague experienced across the state.