Debate on fodder freight subsidies rolls on

Debate on fodder freight subsidies rolls on

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Opponents of freight subsidies say they simply inflate the cost of hay, distort the market and have huge flow-on effects that end up hurting other farmers.

THE generous nature of Australians has been on full display since bushfires tore through parts of SA and the east coast.

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Part of the convoy of trucks heading from Mount Gambier to Cape Jervis with donated hay for fire-affected KI farmers.

Part of the convoy of trucks heading from Mount Gambier to Cape Jervis with donated hay for fire-affected KI farmers.

Farmers have donated hay - a valuable commodity which could be in short supply in the coming months - and truckies have given their time and trucks, knowing every kilometre on the road without a paying load is costing, rather than making, them money.

But while these efforts are incredible and heartwarming, the sheer scale of the tonnages needed in the coming months as producers get back on their feet is daunting.

Take Kangaroo Island for example. About 2000 tonnes of donated hay has made its way to Livestock SA's Cape Jervis fodder depot, including 550t delivered as part of a big hay run at the weekend. Yet the total deficit on KI is between 30,000t and 40,000t, according to Livestock SA's Andrew Curtis.

Feed shortages have become all too common in the past couple of seasons as drought has taken hold.

What there hasn't been a shortage of is trucks carrying hay on our roads - although many have been either travelling through, carting WA hay to the east coast, or taking locally-produced hay to Qld and NSW.

Drought has forced interstate farmers to look further afield to source hay, but state-based freight subsidies have helped NSW farmers especially expand their target zone even further.

Related reading:Rural Aid sends much-needed feed to Cowell district

With the Vic government offering up to $15,000 to help fire-affected farmers with the cost of transporting feed, SA producers are starting a long way back in the race for fodder. How can they compete financially?

Introducing a freight subsidy here could help close the gap and make the prospect of buying in hay a little more affordable. It could also help ease the costs faced by charity hay runs.

But even if SA introduced similar measures to those seen interstate, how long would it be before another state ups the ante and increases support to give its farmers an advantage as supplies become harder to source?

Opponents of freight subsidies say they simply inflate the cost of hay, distort the market and have huge flow-on effects that end up hurting other farmers.

I'm not saying this means we should give up and do nothing, but achieving a long-term level playing field for those in need across the country could be easier said than done.

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