Mouse plague concerns dominate discussion at NSW Farmers Upper Hunter by-election forum in Scone

'Crippling' mouse plague dominates NSW Farmers by-election forum

IT'S not only the financial cost of the mouse invasion that has now hit Upper Hunter farmers, it's the personal cost, with alarming stories of mice nibbling farmer's feet in their beds at night and jumping out of toasters becoming all too common.

The worsening crisis dominated the beginning of a by-election forum hosted by NSW Farmers in Scone on Wednesday night, with nine of the 13 candidates in attendance.

Chris Kemp from Merriwa said it's bad enough losing stored grain and fodder but when the crisis reaches your home, it hits on another level.

"When you're catching 20 mice a night in your house and all your land has been defecated on, it really gets people down," he said.

"There are a lot places worse than around here, but unfortunately Scone is copping it right at this minute."

NSW Farmers and the Country Women's Association have been demanding action from the NSW government, calling on Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall to take the matter seriously and introduce $25,000 rebates for farmers.

However at a planned briefing at Parliament House in Sydney on Tuesday arranged by the lobby group and rural advocates, not one government MP showed up.

The state government has now finally listened to the calls, introducing a $50 million package to help combat the plague, which includes providing free baits to treat grain and rebates for households and small business.

The government has also sought urgent approval from the Commonwealth's APVMA for the use of bromadiolone in NSW.

To deal with costs associated with purchasing baits, the government has introduced eligible households rebates of $500 and small businesses $1000.

It has also committed to more research to identify and potentially develop a new mice-killing agent, something many candidates called for at Wednesday night's forum.

"I believe our farmers should be subsidised for baiting but I also believe that we need to have funding for research into more effective ways to control this plague," Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Sue Gilroy said.

Ms Gilroy said she lived through a mouse plague as a child and she is still emotionally scarred. "Waking up in your bed with a mouse trying to nest in your hair leaves lasting impact," she added.

Nationals candidate Dave Layzell said he had been in discussion with Deputy Premier John Barilaro about the mice crisis.

Handling issues such as plagues crippling farmers is exactly the work NSW Labor's proposed agricultural commissioner would deal with, Labor's candidate Jeff Drayton said.

"It's a statutory role which importantly sits independently from any government so every four years when we come around for election we're not having a political blue about what farmers should or shouldn't do.

"The mouse plague should be treated no different to floods and fires and all sorts of things that affect farmers."

Independent candidate Kirsty O'Connell said the public health issues the plague pose have been "totally ignored".

"I know of at least one case of leptospirosis from mice in Scone," she said.

"I think there needs to be information and resources available immediately through local community health and medical centres so people know what kind of hygiene precautions they should be taking and whether or not leptospirosis vaccines would be advisable."

NSW Farmers and CWA of NSW said they are relieved the government has taken this first important step, and they will continue their advocacy efforts for the people of rural and regional NSW.

"We look forward to discussing these measures with Minister Marshall to find out where the bait stations will be located and opportunities to retrospectively reimburse farmers who have spent tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in baits," NSW Farmers President James Jackson said.

"A smooth and timely rollout is essential, especially when winter crop planting is underway."

This story 'Crippling' mouse plague dominates NSW Farmers by-election forum first appeared on The Scone Advocate.