Mid Coast farmers aren't out of the woods yet but it's looking promising. The NSW Department of Primary Industries' (DPI) combined drought indicator shows the region remains drought affected.
In recent months, areas such as Bulga, Cells River and Nowendoc were classed as drought. These areas, also impacted by last November's devastating bushfires, now join the rest of the region in the drought affected category.
The indicator was designed to give primary producers information to prepare for changing conditions. It determines the severity of drought, if any, by using historic rainfall, soil moisture and plant growth information.
The DPI has determined production for farmers is not limited by climatic conditions. To put this in perspective, an area considered to be in intense drought would have very low ground cover, exhausted soil moisture stores and minimal rainfall in the previous six to 12 months.
Farmers not impacted by drought are encouraged to prepare for dry periods, build fodder and financial reserves, invest in water infrastructure and update equipment.
It's a contrasting extreme for drought impacted producers, as many from the Mid Coast would know. These farmers are encouraged to destock, hand feed core breeders, cart water, seek support services and undertake fire risk planning. It's safe to assume which pathway farmers would rather choose.
For local farmers, the current status means they should be updating their plans and monitoring the drought status and forecasts. If the situation worsen (reverting back to drought), they would be encouraged to sell surplus stock, assess costs and fodder reserves.
Statewide, the impacts of drought continue to weaken, highlighted by improved field conditions and production outlooks during autumn. Most of the State is in the early stages of drought recovery while the climate outlook for the final six weeks of winter is positive. This all depends however on widespread rainfall in the coming months.
The Far West, South East and parts of the Northern Tablelands continue to fare the worst and remain in long-term and intense drought. Just 13.4 per cent of the State is considered in recovery from drought or drought free.
Meanwhile, MidCoast Council mayor David West said the local dairy industry has been one of the hardest hit by the crippling drought.
Dairy farming in the region is vital to the NSW milk supply, which makes the situation more ruinous. "About one-third of the milk produced in NSW is done here," Cr West said. "The drought has been absolutely devastating for that industry."
The number of dairy farmers continue to dwindle across NSW, with other contributing factors including the farmgate milk price and deregulation of the industry. But that's a story for another day.
The effects of drought have been felt by this community for some time, Cr West said.
As local producers replenish their stocks, it's highly important to keep money locally. Those impacted by the drought have also suffered through the COVID-19 and the respective economic downturn that comes with it.
"We need to help prop up the smaller stores which will also prop up the local economy," Cr West said.
"Look at your local butcher - you might pay marginally more but the quality will be better and it will be a better outcome for them."
He said the ShopMidCoast campaign is one measure council is taking to help businesses bounce back, whether the hardship was caused by drought, bushfires or the coronavirus pandemic.
"We've worked together with local business to set up our own ShopMidCoast online business directory, so please take a look today and shop local wherever and whenever you can."