Govt rips $57 million from Agriculture

THE State Government is ripping $57 million out of NSW Agriculture and 'absolutely gutting' the former department, says the Opposition's spokesman for rural affairs and forestry, Andrew Fraser.

Mr Fraser yesterday said the current round of redundancies meant there was a huge loss of experience in the department at a time when farmers needed support.

He said dairy livestock officer Ross Coomber, who is not being replaced, was 'one of the most experienced, if not the most experienced officer on the North Coast' and his loss would be keenly felt.

Mr Fraser said while there were now fewer dairy farmers working in the region, their farms were producing more milk than ever and the remaining producers were innovative farmers, so agricultural help and advice was more relevant than ever.

He said the cutbacks meant problems for other growers as well and he feared the changes at Grafton agricultural station, which is to become a centre for forestry and work on soybeans and fish, could simply mean turning 200 hectares at the research station into a big plantation.

He said banana farmers were looking at alternative crops like blueberries, but the agriculture station carrying out blueberry research, at Gosford, was also under threat; the silver perch program was being wound back and beef cattle research was being moved from Grafton to New England, where the conditions, climate and cattle breeds were completely different to the North Coast.

He said NSW Forests was also feeling the State Government's knife

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