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Mice ‘rain from sky’ in Australia as rodent plague continues

Farmers plead for financial help to lay down bait

Rory Sullivan
Saturday 15 May 2021 14:01 BST

Video filmed on a farm in Australia has shown mice raining down from machinery during one of the worst rodent plagues in years.

Farmers in the state of New South Wales (NSW) have have pleaded for financial support from the local government to combat what they warned amounted to a “natural disaster”

NSW Farmers and the Country Women’s Association called on NSW’s agriculture minister to provide each farm with $25,000 (£13,800) towards the cost of bait.

It comes after an emergency permit was granted to allow double-strength bait to be used, following research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Thirty per cent of farmers have already spent between $20,000 (£11,050) and $150,000 (£82,850) on pest control measures, according to a NSW Farmers survey. 

Pete Arkle, the chief executive of NSW Farmers, said the state should pay half the costs of mouse baits.

“It’s a small portion of the cost that commercial grain producers are investing to drop mice baits out of planes,” he said.

Mr Arkle added his organisation had “grave concerns” that a mild and wet winter would only exacerbate the problem.

However, NSW environment minister Adam Marshall suggested the state could not afford to help. “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 broadcaster ABC.

This position was confirmed by Gladys Berejiklian, the NSW premier, who acknowledged the problem but distanced her government from responsibility for it.

“We are doing everything we can but there is only so much we can do, it’s nature at the end. One of my colleagues joked there’s a lot of fat snakes out there at the moment. We can’t pretend to be able to fix what is a natural disaster,” she told 2GB radio.

Hundreds of thousands of mice have been causing extensive destruction to crops and stored grain in eastern Australia in recent months.

New South Wales farmers are plagued by unfathomable levels of mice

Videos posted on social media illustrate the scale of the problem, with live and dead rodents shown falling out of farm machinery.

Lucy Thackray, an ABC journalist, shared one of these clips on Twitter. “Even if grain’s in silos, mice can get to it. Like Tyler Jones discovered in Tullamore when cleaning out the auger and it started raining mice,” she wrote.

Lisa Minogue, a farmer from Barmedman, central NSW, said she had done 38 loads of washing in just three days because of the rodent infestation. “The smell is horrific. You can pick up all the mice you see but there is always more,” she said.

Experts have expressed their concern for the mental health impact of the crisis. Last month, Dr Gene Hodgins, a psychologist at Charles Sturt University, said he had seen evidence of chronic stress among NSW residents.

“They’re talking about problems sleeping, problems relaxing, financial issues because of the impact of the plague on businesses or on farming practices, and lowered mood,” he told ABC Radio Sydney.

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