Rapid Relief Team helps hundreds of drought-affected farmers

Nearly 200 tonnes of stock feed was donated to local farmers by Rapid Relief Team last week.

As part of 'Operation Drought Relief' the RRT made their sixth stop in Goondiwindi on Thursday to deliver hope and a helping hand.

Director, Lloyd Grimshaw, said he admired the resilience of the region's farmers and hoped recent rainfall was a start to break the drought.

"The drought has just dragged on and on. It's been relentless; there's been no relief. It's amazing to see the rain and it starting to green up but we know a few showers of rain won't take away the pain of three years of drought," he said.

Combined with the free one-tonne bulker bag of livestock pellets, RRT organised a broad range of services to attend the pick-up day at the showgrounds on Thursday as a 'Farmers Community Connect' event.

Government agencies, Rural Financial Counselling, health checks, free working dog micro-chipping, advice about re-stocking and other important information was available.

National coordinator, Dan Alderton, said the pellets were the drawcard but they also wanted to provide a one-stop shop for locals.

"People aren't going to sit at home and ring all these different services but once they get here, they are all in one spot. They can see the vet, have a health check, grab something to eat and have a chat to their mates. Instead of sitting at home looking out at a bare paddock they can come together here and see they are not the only ones going through this; that they are one of many. That's a very big part of the day."

One farmer from Inglewood said this was the first feed handout they had seen. "We're happy for the support; it's very much appreciated," he said. "I don't go anywhere or see anyone. I'm feeding stock seven days a week so this makes you feel like you're not alone," he said.

Boggabilla farmer, Kelly Runzer, said he was surprised by how professionally run the day was. "It's been really tough on our charities between the drought and bushfires, and now floods, so any little bit we can get is a bonus. Being able to have a cup of coffee and sit and chat just helps your stress drop slightly. We've got to keep talking to everyone. Statistics are a bad thing and we don't need another statistic. We are all in this together," he said.

"The biggest comment we've received from farmers is they feel like they've not been forgotten and that it's a nice feeling to know people want to support them. It's a meaningful gesture that encourages them to keep going," Mr Grimshaw said.

Inverell farmer Ashley Barnett attended their event on Friday and expressed his gratitude.

"We were running about 550 breeders and we're down to 140. We've probably spent within the vicinity of half a million dollars just on cattle feed and drought feeding for the last two and a half years.

"We very much appreciate this bit of help that you guys are doing here with these pellets, it'll be a big help. Thanks to the RRT, I think everyone really appreciates your help."

Member for Northern Tablelands and NSW Minister for Agriculture, Adam Marshall, was also in Inverell on Friday.

He said almost 500 farmers, on that day alone, were directly benefiting from RRT's generosity and charity, which was something he could only describe as "amazing".

"The RRT has been extraordinarily generous and wonderful to the people of this area. What's even better is all of the services they've organised to be here today. It's great to see farmers staying and having a chat, it's wonderful," he said.

Mr Alderton said they had to learn to "send the right message" when organising these events. "In 2018 we organised 24 road trains of hay for farmers 'in need' and no-one wanted it. As soon as we said we're giving you a helping hand, their whole perception changed. Quite often they believe there is someone worse off who deserves it more," he said.

"We're really pleased we've got that momentum now, that people know about us and trust us. What you see today is just the tip of the iceberg. The behind the scenes logistics takes hours and hours of work. The registration process is very important for us so people can drive in with their ID, get matched-up, given a card, have their vehicle loaded and then we take a photo of the vehicle with the feed on so we have a complete record of where our money has gone and there's no questions about how we spend our money."

The self-funded RRT support the community in a range of ways, especially in emergency situations. Last year RRT donated $100,000 worth of fencing materials to BlazeAid in assisting to rebuild farm fences after the Tingha Plateau Fire.

The RRT has committed to donating 1600 tonnes of livestock to drought affected Aussie farmers throughout 2020.

"We've heard some pretty tragic stories, heard many people are ready to give up but we are thankful for this recent weather change and we hope it's the beginning of breaking the drought. People are a little more optimistic and so hopefully this helps them in the transition to get back on track," Mr Alderton said.