Nelshaby farmer Kerrie Shield hit by high prices for hay

'MY GIRLS': Farmer Kerrie Shield feeds one of her 'girls' in the stock pen at her property at Nelshaby.
'MY GIRLS': Farmer Kerrie Shield feeds one of her 'girls' in the stock pen at her property at Nelshaby.

A solo woman farmer at Nelshaby has been hit by high prices for hay as a result of the drought.

Kerrie Shield says the Port Pirie Regional Council should have received a million dollars in federal drought relief to share among farmers such as herself.

Port Pirie missed out on the government allocation despite many other country councils receiving it.

Ms Shields has a herd of 30 cattle on her hobby farm after having sold 14 livestock in September because of the big dry.

She contributes to the local economy by building sheds, concreting, installing irrigation and fencing and through veterinarian fees.

“The government has grossly underestimated the contribution that small producers such as myself make to the local economy,” she said.

“I wrote to the council and they were fantastic. The chief executive officer Peter Ackland called me and apologised. He was very upset that Port Pirie was excluded from receiving funding.

“If you miss out, you fall into a big black hole."

She said she needed subsidies with which to buy hay and the money that should have been allocated to council could have covered her water bill.

“The farm income gets ploughed back into the cattle,” she said. 

Ms Shield, who is originally from Sydney, said she was ineligible for Centrelink payments because of her assets.

She said she had a dream to be a farmer and “I love my girls, the cattle”.

“Every cent I have goes to feeding my cattle,” she said.

“They have all been forgotten … we don’t matter.”

The council says it will approach federal and state Ministers and MPs about the $1 million drought grant funding that has been allocated to “every neighhbouring council:” and seek their support to remedy the situation.

Federal Grey MP Rowan Ramsey could not be contacted.

Earlier, he told of the FarmHub online resource enabling farmers to have a single place to find out about drought relief.

He said a national drought map had been launched.

Mr Ramsey said later that drought community program funding to councils had recognised that farmers were not the only people affected by the dry.

“As farmers reduce their spending in their communities, businesses that supply them also take a hit, leading to job losses," he said.

"This program supports those communities by giving the worst-affected councils money to invest in their towns.”

He said the affected communities had been chosen through the use of the same formula used in the eastern states which recognised rainfall deficiency and the percentage of people in the area that relied on agriculture as their primary source of income.

“The money is for councils to use on community infrastructure to boost the local economy by targeting local jobs and local businesses,” he said.

“The scheme is not designed for direct support of farmers who have access to a wide range of specialised products.”

Mr Ramsey said farmers could check their eligibility for aid at www.farmhub.org.au or the federal agriculture department website. Programs included Farm Household Allowance, low-interest drought and farm build-up loans, accelerated tax write-down for water and fodder investments, mental health support and free financial counselling.

“The commonwealth has spent about $2 billion helping farmer’s deal with the drought,” he said.

“For farmers needing help with their hay supplies I am happy to have played a major role in bringing Buy a Bale to South Australia.

“Our farmers can list on their website for help and, when enough demand is listed in an area, they will respond.”    

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