A GROWING number of local farmers are being forced to live on food vouchers as they struggle to recover from the challenges nature has thrown at them.
The revelation from a local charity comes as state and federal governments prepare to sit down at the negotiation table this week to thrash out what - if any - funding the government will provide farmers in future.
And if they need evidence to justify drought assistance, it's right here in Griffith.
The Area News can reveal more than a dozen farming families in the city and surrounding towns have relied on the Salvation Army for vouchers and financial assistance of up to $2000 this year.
The decade-long drought and destructive floods, combined with low commodity prices and the high Australian dollar have put many farms in heavy debt.
"Some of these farmers are really suffering," Salvation Army rural chaplain Noelene Barrass said.
"It's really tough for young farming families and, with Christmas coming up, it's only going to get worse.
"Some have got to the point where the wife is going out to work but even that isn't enough to keep everyone going."
While October to December was usually the busiest time for aid organisations, Mrs Barrass said assistance had been in high demand all year.
The state primary industries ministers will meet with federal agriculture minister Joe Ludwig on Friday to decide how to help farmers affected by extreme weather conditions.
The drought assistance package that kept many farmers on their feet over the past decade has already been scrapped, along with exit grants for those leaving the land as a result of drought or other unavoidable conditions.
The government spent more than $48 million on Exceptional Circumstances (EC) funding in the past year but all that remains of the program is the Transitional Farm Family Payment, which allows farming families in hardship to apply for a maximum of 12 months household income support.
It is due to expire in June 2013.Hanwood farmer and local R U OK? ambassador John Ward was devastated to hear how grim the situation had become.
"There is a perception out there that everything is OK now the drought's over but there are a lot of people who are still recovering financially," Mr Ward said.
"What I want to know is, where's the light at the end of the tunnel? The Salvos can't feed people forever.
"These farmers have gone for five or six years with little or no income but they still have all their overheads to pay.
"This situation is only going to get worse unless the government comes up with a genuine industry assistance package that will keep people on the land."