Australian government pledges to help farmers plagued by mice plague

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May 29 (UPI) — The government of New South Wales in Australia has announced that it will cover expenses for farmers who have been battling a plague of mice for several months.

Previously the government had pledged to cover expenses related to rodent control beginning May 13, but it has since announced it will backdate payments to cover the period beginning Feb. 1, ABC Australia reported.

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But farmers say the rebate isn’t sufficient, as farmers have been baiting mice for several months and seeing little relief.

Xavier Martin of the NSW Farmers Association said farmers are spending thousands or, in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars on bait and still seeing mouse damage.

He has estimated that the province could lose some $771.1 million in harvests as growers scale back their winter grain crops.

The association is calling on the government to provide immediate rebates and cover half the costs of bait.

Martin said mice are now attacking crops being sown for the winter season and that he’s hearing reports of people being treated for “rodent-related disease.”

Mice have also been blamed for a phone service outage and the destruction of a family’s home after mice chewed through electrical wires, causing the house to catch on fire.

Australia suffers a mouse plague roughly every 10 years, with the current one appearing after a heavy rain season that yielded larger grain crops, prompting farmers to stock up on feed for their livestock — and giving the mice abundant food.

Farmers have also begun sowing new crops directly onto old stalks over the last 15 years, rather than burning stubble at the end of the growing season — a change that has inadvertently created more sources of food and shelter for rodents.

Last year’s rainy season and this year’s plague also follows a years-long drought that put farmers in a precarious financial place.

“We’ve had three years where we didn’t even get our crop in the ground because of the drought,” farmer Jeff Fragar told The New York Times. “And we have one half-reasonable year, which the mice are now destroying. If we don’t get it in again, I’d say we’d be out of luck here. The bank won’t carry us any further.”