Farmers overrun by millions of mice have begged the government for help – only to be told there is no money left in the Budget.
Homes and farms across NSW have endured masses of rodents within the past few months leaving the majority of their stocks completely destroyed.
NSW Farmers and the Country Women’s Association met at State Parliament on Tuesday to detail just how much their lives have been put on hold to cope with the endless stream of mice.
They asked for $25,000 per farm to help buy and set up mouse baits to kill the rodents and save their crops and homes.
But Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said after spending billions of dollars on the drought crisis, it wasn’t possible to offer the same support to those fighting the mouse plagues and they would have to make do with workshops instead.
‘The proposal that I’ve read in media reports would cost anywhere between $600-700 million. After spending nearly $4.5 billion in drought support, I don’t have that money on my fingertips,’ he told the ABC.
Lisa Minogue, a farmer from Barmedman, in central NSW said the mice kept coming and couldn’t be stopped, and the smell they left behind was ‘horrific’.
‘You can pick up all the mice you see but there is always more,’ she said.
‘I did 38 loads of washing in three days. My house is pretty much packed up in boxes.’
Dubbo farmer Tracey Jones shared an alarming video of mice falling out of her auger when her son went to the clean the machinery.
‘When you clean out the auger and it rains mice!’ she captioned the video as countless rodents flew out of the pipe to land on the dirt.
Ms Jones said the mouse plagues were devastating for her family that relies on grain farming for its livelihood.
‘People out here are struggling badly with them in our houses,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘My 90-year-old mother in law is living out of an esky because it’s the only way she can mouse-proof her food.
‘Mice are in everything, rooves and walls eating wiring, cupboards and pantries eating, nesting in and soiling in food and clothing, in cars and machinery chewing through wiring.
‘The smell of dead mice is overwhelming, it’s everywhere.’
She said the financial burden was ever worse.
‘We are trying to sow winter crops, an almost impossible task with mice eating the grain straight from the ground,’ Ms Jones said.
‘We’re trying to fill grain contracts made before the plague with mouse infested grain.
‘I know it has certainly had a psychological impact on my husband and living with mice crawling through the walls and ceiling all night keeping you awake would drive anyone up the wall.’
Some farmers estimated losses of between $50,000 and $150,000 due to grain and fodder being destroyed, 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,’ he said.
He said if this same problem was seen in an inner-city suburb like Balmain, it would have been fixed long ago.
A survey on farmers around the state found that more than 80 per cent had suffered significant damage to machinery and infrastructure from mice.
It was also found that 75 per cent of farmers couldn’t access bait when they needed it most.
CWA chief executive Danica Leys said the plagues of rodents also had drastic impacts on farmers’ mental health.
‘People are having issues with sleeping, which we all know as a significant impact on mental and physical health,’ she said.
‘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.’
Mr Marshall said he found it odd the farmers met at a time when government ministers were unable to attend but said there were several workshops being set up to help those combat the mice.
‘No amount of money could ever wipe out the mice impacting farmers in parts of the State,’ he said.
‘The most effective way to manage mouse populations is to reduce the availability of food and shelter in combination with pesticide bait control.
‘The feedback I have heard from farmers on the ground is the need for increased tools to combat these pesky rodents.
‘That is why we have secured the experience of Australia’s leading expert to provide tailored on-farm advice alongside a series of workshops to ensure people are equipped with the knowledge they need to effectively manage mice.’
‘The NSW Government has also successfully lobbied the Commonwealth’s APVMA to allow off-label use of zinc phosphide and worked to ensure there is no shortage of baits.’