The impact of the "worst drought in living memory" on rural communities is being underestimated, farmers are warning.
John Seymour, a farmer and the mayor of Coolamon Shire, said harvest in his area had been patchy, and there were "quite a few disappointed cockies about".
Councillor Seymour said the below-average harvest was what farmers had been expecting in light of the drought, but warned that the "powers that be" were underestimating the flow-on effects to rural communities and businesses.
He said many farmers would not earn significant income before the 2020 harvest, a full year away
"It is starting to hurt small business," he said.
Cr Seyour said campaigns such as Buy from the Bush provided real assistance and valuable income at a time when rural economies were taking a hit.
The comments come as the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences predicts total winter crop production will fall for the third year in a row. The forecast is down 13 per cent since September due to deteriorating conditions, particularly in NSW.
NSW Farmers vice president Chris Groves, who farms at Cowra, said many growers in his area were experiencing their second successive poor harvest.
He said a lot of the farmers who did manage to harvest grain would be likely to keep it for "feed and seed".
Like Cr Seymour, Mr Groves believed the drought will have a lasting impact on rural communities.
Mr Groves believes the government's move to make $3000 cash handouts available to eligible farmers was a good one, as was the introduction of a 25 per cent water infrastructure rebate.
"A lot of people don't have much cash and they just don't want low-interest loans because they don't want more debt," he said.
However, Mr Groves said he was disappointed the federal government had refused a plea by the Country Women's Association for more drought funding.
"People who are too shy to go to St Vincent de Paul or the Salvation Army might be more likely to talk to the CWA," he said.
The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program team is encouraging Australians to support people and communities impacted by the drought and recent bushfires leading up to Christmas.
Program manager Tessa Caton said this Christmas will be especially tough for many rural families.
"The bushfires and the ongoing drought has really taken a toll on many people financially, physically and mentally. There is a lot of stress and worry about what the future entails.
"On the positive side there is lot of great work happening across communities by individuals, volunteers, community groups and organisations. It is often the strength and spirit of our communities that gets them through difficult times.
"Our RAMHP team who live and work in rural communities often get asked by people 'how can we help those who are doing it tough?'. That is why this year RAMHP have put together these suggestions on how to support people in rural communities leading up to Christmas," Ms Caton said.
- Make a donation to a group like national not-for-profit Givit, which helps to provide exactly what is needed in disaster response and recovery. Go to www.givit.org.au to find out more
- Support rural businesses by getting on social media and checking the Facebook page @buyfromthebush. This page provides a showcase of beautiful things to buy from rural communities facing drought -#buyfromthebush
- Go out on a road trip and visit a regional area. This Facebook page -#Stayinthebush - provides a showcase of beautiful places to stay in the bush
- Volunteer in your local community or in another community doing it tough - this Christmas give volunteers a break and donate some time to a cause or organisation
- Support our first responders' wellbeing by visiting www.givenow.com.au/behindtheseen. This initiative supports postage costs and distribution of 'Stress Less Packs' to first responders across Australia
- Give a gift of hope for Christmas and provide support for farmers and their rural communities affected by drought by visiting the Facebook page Drought Angels, @droughtangels or visit www.droughtangels.org.au
- Keep up with social connections as now is time to spend time with family and friends. Arrange to have a cuppa with a neighbour or pick up the phone and check in with someone who you know who may be doing it tough
- Help raise awareness around the gaps in services and support for rural Australians struggling with Alcohol addiction. Visit 'Sober In The Country' at www.soberinthecountry.com.au/ to find out more
- Make someone's day with a random act of kindness. Check www.randomactofkindness.org for ideas on how you can make a difference.
"Charities are asking people who want to help communities to donate money instead of food or clothing," Ms Caton said.
Where to get help
If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
Contact your local RAMHP coordinator at www.ramhp.com.au. They are not clinicians but they can listen, provide support and help connect people to services in their local area.
If you're concerned about your own or someone else's mental health, call the NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 for advice or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
For online resources, head to RAMHP's website www.ramhp.com.au/downloadable-resources/ and check out the podcasts, fact sheets, self -help quiz and the Glove Box Guide to Mental Health.