Young farmers urged to reach out as drought pressure continues

Concern is growing about how young farmers are coping with the pressure of ongoing drought conditions.

The lack of rain has left some in a desperate situation which has been compounded by supply chain problems in China caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has now classified the drought in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams as a large-scale adverse event.

The move unlocked up to $2 million in Government funding to support farmers and growers from now until June 2021.

Rural Support Trust chair, Neil Bateup said the funding was welcomed and would mean being able to provide more support to those farmers who needed it.

"It's about supporting them, we can't pay their bills for them, we can't do that sort of thing, but we can support them when they are under pressure," said Bateup.

He said while most farmers had been managing to cope, he had noticed it was now taking its toll.

"They have been pretty good up until now, but probably in the last week or so, their tails are down a bit and they are just starting to struggle a little bit.

Neil Bateup (centre) on a recent visit to Owl Farm, near Cambridge with Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.
Neil Bateup (centre) on a recent visit to Owl Farm, near Cambridge with Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. Photo credit: Newshub

"Feeding out every day and no sign of rain, it's just starting to get to them a bit so it's important that we try and lift their spirits and keep them going because it will rain one day."

He was especially concerned about younger farmers, who may not have experienced drought.

"I feel for some of the younger ones who haven't been through this sort of thing before. 

"Some of us older guys have seen it before many times over a lot of years and have learnt perhaps how to deal with it."  

Talking to friends, family and neighbours and getting off the farm was important to manage stress, he said, along with reaching out to the Rural Support Trust.

"We are farmers supporting farmers, we are not scary and we are quite happy just to talk them through where they are at and come and visit them if necessary."

Bateup said the effects of the drought would be felt for some time.

"Particularly if people have used some of their winter feed and they can't get cows back up to the right condition for calving so it might put pressure on there.

"And if they have lost some production this year because of the dry, they will never recoup that. So that is money that was budgeted to come in and it hasn't come."