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Drought decision on the way

Wednesday 27 Feb 2013 5:45 a.m.

Northland farmers are set to find out if they will get a drought declaration after weeks of hot, dry weather.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has confirmed he'll make an announcement at a Dargaville dairy farm on whether a drought will be declared in Northland on Wednesday.

If announced, a range of relief measures and economic aid would follow.

Mr Guy, a dairy farmer himself, said on Monday dry conditions were making life tough for farmers and the next few weeks would be crucial.

Farms in many parts of the country, including Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu, Canterbury and Hawke's Bay are running dry after a hot summer.

Waikato Regional Council has also formed a drought committee but it is holding off on a formal drought declaration.

Wairarapa Federated Farmers president Jamie Falloon says they're not in drought conditions in his part of the country, but they aren't far off.

"At the moment we're just sort of hanging on," he told Firstline. "We've still got a bit of a green tinge around. Soil moisture levels are going down though, so really we should be seeing them increasing at the moment.

"It's fingers crossed again… and hoping for a bit of rain."

He says the South Island has been taking extra stock off their hands, as farmers rush to destock before a drought does hit.

"It's pretty hard to get killing space at the moment in the freezing works, so there's a couple of weeks wait if you booked a sheep in. That's just a symptom of the dry conditions over most of the sheep farming areas in the North Island.

"Contrast that with the South Island, where they've got pretty good covers down there, and they've actually been taking a lot of our surplus stock out of the North Island… so that's been a good outlet for people, but prices are still pretty rough."

Mr Falloon says if a drought is declared, it will definitely help farmers get by.

"It brings recognition to farmers that we're all in the same boat here, it's not your own fault that it's dry. And it helps people with support services basically, like budgeting and counselling if required, so it really brings the issue up to national prominence."

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