By HARRY CLARKE
“The horse has bolted” on any chance to prevent grasshopper damage in western Queensland this season, but David Crisafulli is calling for government funding to stop the insects from decimating fodder in years to come.
The Opposition Leader has this week visited Longreach where farmers in the region are two years into a seasonal grasshopper plague that’s destroying cattle feed and forcing farmers to continually de-stock.
The State Government has established a “working group” and is carrying out a producer survey to quantify the scale of the grasshopper impact, but Mr Crisafulli told the Caller the problem was more urgent.
Mr Crisufulli visited the Weewondilla, a sheep and cattle property north of Longreach owned by Boyd Webb, who said it was unclear why grasshoppers numbers had boomed in recent years.
“Being in drought, grass is in short supply and they’re really making a mess of it,” Mr Webb said.
“They’ve spread in area and they’re slowly moving south. We’re noticing it a lot more because we don’t have the body of feed that we should have.”
Mr Webb said the region was now enduring its ninth consecutive “failed Summer” of rain and that the grasshopper plague was exacerbating already severe feed shortages.
Among the theories for what’s causing the problem are the absence of natural predators being gradually eradicated by the drought.
“I’m sure it’s part of the (natural drought) cycle. There’s been grasshopper problems in the past,” Mr Webb said.
“The disappointing thing is there’s no real effort to try and come up with a solution. There doesn’t seem to be any research on it. There doesn’t seem to be any strategies or organised campaigns to minimise the effect.
“Not only have we been knocked over by the drought, we’ve also been kicked in the guts by the grasshoppers”
“The horse has bolted for this year. The grass from our wetter season has already been eaten.”
He said “at the very least” there should be some more research about grasshoppers in western Queensland, and that agistment subsidies or government funding for spraying programs ahead of the wet season would also help mitigate the problem.
LISTEN: Country Caller interviews Opposition Leader David Crisafulli
In a statement to the Caller, Queensland agriculture minister Mark Furner hit back at the suggest by Mr Crisafulli that insufficient work was being done to address the grasshopper problem.
“The State Government has moved quickly to support producers and local governments who are dealing with this issue, with a working group and a producer survey to quantify the scale of the impact,” Mr Furner said.
“The LNP’s cheap shots and ill-informed claims do nothing to help producers deal with this emerging issue.
“There are no chemical solutions currently on the market to deal with grasshoppers, but we are working closely with producers and local councils to identify management options.”