Truckies deliver hay, hope to NSW farmers

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The NSW government declared 100 per cent of the state drought-affected, and farmers are suffering.Desperate NSW farmers are relying on convoys of hay from Victoria, South Australia and even Western Australia and the truckies delivering it say they’ve never seen such dire need.
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Chris Redpath, who has run an agricultural freight business in central Victoria for 15 years, never had to cross the NSW border until 2018.

“I’ve never carted hay like this before – it’s horrendous, it’s horrible,” Mr Redpath told AAP from his base in Avoca.

“Running hay over the NSW border is, in our business, unheard of.”

Mr Redpath’s latest delivery arrived at Wayne Dunford’s livestock and crop farm near Parkes in the NSW’s central west on Monday morning.

Mr Dunford, whose family has been farming the area for more than a century, has spent $100,000 on freighted hay so far this year.

“We got caught short because we came off the back of some other bad years,” he told AAP.

“We’ve had little bits of rain but all it does is settle the dust.”

The 68-year-old on Monday pointed to a dry, dusty paddock past his hay shed and noted: “That should be a foot high.” The farmer sowed the paddock with canola two months ago.

Mr Redpath’s drivers are making the 720-kilometre eight hour journey to the NSW central west every day.

“We’ve actually had to buy more gear to be able to handle the job. I should not be carting hay that far,” he said.

Despite the distance, Mr Redpath has found himself providing emotional support to the NSW farmers battling the record-breaking dry spell.

“We’ve never met before and they’re reaching out on the telephone,” he said.

“I had a farmer ring me up the other day and say ‘I really need to know that you’re going to cart up this load of hay because my cattle are starving.”

The NSW government last month announced $500 million in drought relief for farmers taking the total contribution past $1 billion.

The second stage of the funding provides freight subsidies of up to $20,000 per farm which Mr Dunford says does help: “Any dollar is handy”.

He will continue to pay for hay to be carted onto his property until the drought breaks. But, sadly, the Bureau of Meteorology doesn’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

“The bureau’s climate outlook for August to October shows high chances of warmer and drier conditions over the drought-affected regions,” climatologist Simon Grainger said in a statement to AAP.

More than 80 per cent of NSW is now suffering rainfall deficiencies, according to the BoM. The NSW government has declared 100 per cent of the state drought-affected.

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