BIEDO GIRLS: Sarah Aberdein, Kristy Frahm and Karen Seiler at Burnett Inland Women in Agriculture (WAGs) Day at Biggenden.
BIEDO GIRLS: Sarah Aberdein, Kristy Frahm and Karen Seiler at Burnett Inland Women in Agriculture (WAGs) Day at Biggenden. Erica Murree

BIEDO sheds light on drought situation

BURNETT rural producers have expressed their frustrations with current drought programs.

According to feedback collected by BIEDO, producers see the programs as unable to recognise shortage of water supplies as drought-like situations.

BIEDO collated feedback from landholders and community members regarding existing and potential drought programs to the Queensland Government Drought Program Review.

BIEDO CEO Kristy Frahm brought to the panel's attention the issues surrounding areas which were not drought declared, but still experiencing water shortages through reduced water allocations.

A group of irrigators in the North Burnett, which is not drought declared had their water supply allocated from Boondooma Dam cut off.

The water was cut off in early September for a period of approximately six weeks due to falling dam levels.

"This has happened a number a times in the past, resulting in financial pressure for growers and producers along the river system, and in some cases crop damage and loss," she said.

The organisation had raised the issue at the Bundaberg Drought Program Review Forum and independent drought panel member Ruth Wade described the situation as a water drought.

"It is not about a shortage of rainfall as much as it is a shortage of water supply in a river system causing drought conditions for producers," Ms Frahm said.

The risk of losing permanent horticulture crops and critical rootstock during periods of water shortage, regardless of whether the region is drought declared, is high and can have a devastating impact on the region's economy.

Despite the experienced water shortages through the reduced water allocations, if regions are not drought declared it makes it difficult to acquire IDSP applications.

"Eligibility criteria for IDSP's include rainfall records over a 12 month period which could pose challenges if rain was received several months ago, yet is not sufficient to maintain water supplies and prevent shortages," she said.

Within BIEDO's submission, Burnett producers identified intensive livestock operations as a challenge.

Piggeries were not eligible to access some drought programs, despite being impacted by drought conditions through the source inputs for their operations, such as grain.

Rural stakeholders have requested holistic farm management and financial management training to be considered in the review.

BIEDO have also requested for the work of the local drought committee to be transparent so the community would have a greater understanding of their decisions.

Burnett landholders suggested future drought programs should include incentives for drought preparedness measures, rather than relief measure when the impact of the drought is already seen.

Programs should also include sustainable water infrastructure rebates, by providing primary producers with an incentive to invest in water infrastructure to improve water efficiency, sustainability and security for all sectors.

BIEDO suggested grants and rebates should be offered, rather than loans.

"Landholders are reluctant to take on additional debt during drought periods," she said.

Fixed cost rebates to assist primary producers meet the cost of fixed water and electricity costs during periods of drought would be beneficial.

"The investment in fixed water costs during periods of water shortage has limited return as irrigators are paying the full amount for something they are unable to use to support crops and stock outcomes," Ms Frahm said.