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  • Rikki Lambert

Mouse plague concerns taken to NSW parliament as mice reach Riverina

NSW Farmers and the CWA have joined forces in calling for the State Government to implement a mouse plague financial support package, providing up to $25,000 per farm business to assist with baiting costs.

The two organisations held a parliamentary briefing today to outline the significant financial and health impacts of the relentless mouse plague spreading across New South Wales.

FlowNews24 spoke with Alan Brown, a farmer from Wagga Wagga in the Riverina, about the mice now reaching parts of that district after ravaging the state's central west and north.

Lisa Minogue, a farmer from Barmedman, said in a statement:

“The smell is horrific. You can pick up all the mice you see but there is always more.
"I did 38 loads of washing in three days. My house is pretty much packed up in boxes."

NSW Farmers Grains Committee Chair Matthew Madden said:

“Farmers and rural communities are still in the midst of combatting a ceaseless mouse plague that is continuing to impact the northern and central west regions and rapidly spreading and growing through the south."

The CSIRO have previously estimated the worst mouse plague on record in 1993 cost farmers over $90 million, and another in 2010/11 having a similar cost.

Mr Madden said the loss of stored grain and fodder is having the greatest financial impact in the current plague, with a third of respondents to a NSW Farmer survey reporting estimating losses between $50,000 and $150,000.

“The survey results also showed that the costs of baiting so far for some exceeds $150,000, with 30% having spent between $20,000 and $150,000 already.”
“More than 80% of respondents also reported damage to agricultural machinery and infrastructure, with around a third saying the damage bill was between $20,000 and $150,000.”

Availability of mouse bait is also an escalating issue, with 75 per cent of farmers reporting an inability to access bait when needed, Mr Madden observed:

“The government can have a role to play in supporting the establishment of and streamlining approvals for regional grain treatment stations, allowing farmers to treat their own grain, reducing the cost and biosecurity risks associated with baiting.”

Riverina farmer Alan Brown said mice had reached parts of that district, but said reducing food supply for the mice was critical to encourage them to take the bait:

"Baiting is problematic because (a) its very expensive and (b) because there's a lot of residual material on the ground, unless farmers take steps to get rid of it ... there are a lot of silo bags and loose grain on the ground.
"You need to find a way to reduce alternate food supply so you force the mice into the bait. It's been almost impoossible with the amount of feed, in my area we've had a fairly green summer so the food sources are still growing.
"Domestic (household) baiting is working quite well but in the field baiting is problematic.
"People need to understand you're seeing increased burning - part of the cause of that is to remove mouse habitat and alternate food supply for mice. Farmers are getting rid of the cover on the ground that they would normally retain.
"Some people are spending very very large amounts of money on bait, and its one thing to spend the money and its another thing when it just doesn't work. In a lot of cases the baiting is just not being successful.
"A Coonamble farmer baited the crop 5 times and still lost the crop."

Mr Brown also warned that mice and rats can chew the wiring of expensive, large machinery, wrecking the valuable electronics of the machines and in some cases in previous years, causing fires in headers.

CWA CEO Danica Leys said the social and mental health impacts on farmers, their families and rural communities are also rising sharply.

“A staggering 97 per cent of the survey respondents felt the influx of mice is affecting their stress levels making farm business decisions.
“People are having issues with sleeping, which we all know as a significant impact on mental and physical health.”
“There are plenty of reports of people being bitten and mice also make their way into rain water tanks causing contamination of domestic water storages with different bacteria such as salmonella.”
“And it’s not just farm businesses. Regional hotels, retail and food businesses, bakeries, supermarkets, child care centres and aged care homes have also felt the impact of this mouse plague.”
“All of these financial and health impacts follow unprecedented drought, catastrophic bushfires and most recently floods across large regions. It is time for the state government to act.”

Labor shadow minister for agriculture, Jenny Aitchison, expressed disappointment on Tuesday afternoon that state ministers did not meet with the NSW Farmers / CWA delegation:

“The Deputy Premier and Minister for Agriculture didn’t even show up for the meeting today.
“The Government has refused to provide additional assistance despite the extremely distressing evidence presented by the CWA and NSW Farmers.”
"NSW Farmers have been calling for urgent action for many months and have requested financial assistance through a small rebate program of up to $25,000 per farmer. Ms Aitchison said this was “extremely modest considering many farmers have spent between $20,000 and $150,000 already.”
“The Government must also act to help farmers access baits as they are very difficult to obtain.
“If the Government was serious about supporting rural and regional communities, it would have delivered a support package to the struggling industry. Farmers have endured drought, fires, floods, the COVID-19 pandemic, international trade disruptions and now the mouse plague.
“The crisis continues and the NSW Nationals are missing in action.
“Country people in NSW can’t trust the Nationals to help them fight the mouse plague. Under the Nationals, rural and regional communities are being left to fight another battle alone.”


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