QUEENSLAND’S sheep and wool producers want an annual $10 million increase in state and federal government funding for wild dog exclusion fencing.
AgForce Sheep and Wool president Alan Rae said AgForce is calling on the Federal and State Governments to each contribute an extra $5 million a year, to be matched by landholder contributions, to ensure more exclusion fencing could be constructed to protect sheep flocks.
“Without exclusion fences, there’s no sheep, it’s as simple as that.
“Cluster fencing funding has been oversubscribed to date, which highlights how eager producers are to restock with sheep in the 45 million hectares of Queensland that is suitable for sheep grazing,” Mr Rae said.
“With both the federal and state budgets only weeks away, Queensland producers will be eager for both governments to build on the generous funding commitments they have already made so we can once again create a productive and sustainable sheep and wool industry.”
Mr Rae applauded the efforts of the Federal and State Governments for the assistance they had given so far to help sheep producers build fences to protect their flock, but said the job was not yet done.
“Wild dogs have had a devastating effect on the Queensland sheep industry for decades, but the roll-out of fencing supported by government programs is helping the sector rebuild,” he said.
“Landholder surveys from the central west Queensland area alone indicate that sheep numbers will almost double from 365,600 to 714,200, generating an additional $8.5 million in wages from shearing, crutching and lamb marking,” Mr Rae said.
“It’s clear that rebuilding Queensland’s sheep numbers will help build Queensland’s regional communities, bringing renewed prosperity and increased employment opportunities.”
However, AgForce said it is unlikely that another $10 million will meet the current need for exclusion fencing.
The AgForce Sheep and Wool Board is encouraging the Queensland Government to continue to partner with the Federal Government to provide matching dollar-for-dollar financial assistance annually to no less than $5 million each, on an ongoing basis.
AgForce said landholder contributions are actually greater than the support the government are providing. The governments’ support covers about 50pc of the fencing material only eg wire and posts, where producers need to match this amount to purchase the material, as well as funding the construction of the fence, which includes earthworks.
AgForce said in the central-west Queensland region alone, there were more landholder clusters that applied for funding that missed out because the government’s initial support was limited.
Many Queensland sheep producers do not have the capital to fund wild dog exclusion fences on their own, and the government’s cluster of landholders arrangement is allowing a greater area of sheep producing country to become protected from wild dogs, AgForce said.
The state farmer body is arguing that the governments’ financial contributions are not only helping to rebuild the state’s sheep industry, it is enhancing economic opportunities and returning regional prosperity to many western Queensland towns by creating employment, encouraging families to settle in these rural areas, and increasing the number of children in regional schools.
AgForce said Queensland’s boom in commodity prices is due, in part, to short supply of product caused by drought. Almost 90 percent of Queensland is drought declared, with all sheep growing areas in this category. Many sheep and wool producers have not got full stocking numbers to benefit from the high prices, let alone fund expensive exclusion fencing in their own right. Hence a continuation of the government’s financial support is necessary so producers have the infrastructure to take advantage of buying and breeding up sheep numbers when good general rain does eventuate, AgForce said.
AgForce said a feasibility study completed by consultant Ian Perkins had demonstrated the improved economic benefits of exclusion fencing to regional towns due to sheep and wool enterprises, and the State Government is currently undertaking on-ground analysis of the benefits of an exclusion fence.
AgForce has written formally to both the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Queensland’s Palaszczuk Government’s last month said the state now has 5000 kilometres of exclusion fencing.
Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne says a new map which details the extent of existing cluster fencing, and those under construction or approved for funding, showed the extent of the effort to support the revival of the sheep industry.
“Five thousand kilometres is about the same distance as a return highway journey from Cairns to Sydney.
“By the time the projects currently under way are completed, more than 420 properties will be protected from south of Hughenden to the New South Wales border,” he said.
Mr Byrne said the Palaszczuk Government has gone way beyond its initial commitment to provide $5 million over three years to tackle the problem feral animals pose to producers.
He said the fencing allowed producers to effectively protect their flocks and the rejuvenation of the industry would bring huge economic and social benefits to south west and central western Queensland.
“A thriving and confident sheep and wool sector will help to revitalise some of our regional centres, bring more money into them and increase employment opportunities.”
Mr Byrne said funding is capped at approximately one-half of material costs and landholders must contribute the remaining costs.
Blackall sheep producer Anita Dennis, of Coolagh, is a contributor to the Moonbria cluster4 fencing project and said it would bring an expected additional 22,000 sheep to the area, which meant $285,000 in additional local wages.
Click here to see the extent of cluster fencing in Queensland.
Sources: AgForce, Queensland Agriculture Ministry.