I recently drove west from the Blue Mountains to Broken Hill and saw firsthand the toll the drought is taking on farmers and communities. You don't actually need to leave the Hawkesbury in my electorate of Macquarie to find people doing it tough on the land because of the drought.
Local Graham Williams, who's worked in the farm sector for years, knows the pain of some of our older farmers who are almost out of feed for stock and their working animals. He organised a collection at the weekend, with help from the Richmond Lions Club and the use of a shed, thanks to the Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association.
While much of the agricultural land that fed Sydney since the colonial settlements has disappeared under concrete, there's still around 33,000 hectares of farmland in the Hawkesbury, most of it for grazing, and more than 450 businesses in the agricultural sector. We have leading agricultural research being done at the Hawkesbury campus of Western Sydney University.
While many of the farming families have off-farm jobs to help get by, there are elderly farmers in particular—including in Agnes Banks in the Macdonald Valley, around Windsor and across the river—for whom that just isn't an option.
As one fifth-generation farmer told me at the weekend, 'Farmers are smart and they've changed their practices to be more holistic, increasing soil carbon and organic matter levels and the ability of the soil to hold water, but it's not enough. This is a long drought and people need help.'
Thanks to all who donated, but, with no serious rain predicted until autumn, this is likely to be the beginning, not the end, of the help that's needed.