Drought affected farmers are fed up with both State and Federal Coalition Governments daily announcements on funds they are providing for relief when precious little is actually helping farmers’ cash flow in this exceptional circumstance (EC). I use those words specifically because we are now in new territory in regards to the severity of the drought with it starting to impact on farmers ability to keep their core breeding herds alive.
Drought is a regular risk farmers must manage and most farmers now gear themselves to get through but when you strike a drought of severity only experienced a few times in the last 200 years, governments should step in.
The large family farms and those with minimal debt can get help with FMD’s and accessing loans but my concern is for those who cannot.
The National Press Club speech by National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson saying climate change is making droughts worse is very challengeable when there is precedence for current conditions. Those comments unfortunately will only play into the hands of government to do nothing, you can hear them now saying this is normal so farmers need to adjust.
The only trouble is there is precedent for a drought of this severity albeit only a few times in the last 200 years but nonetheless it has happened. There are small farmers outside the big family farms and the NFF corporate funders who may not make it without some help.
Business people outside of farming ask why should farmers get help when they cannot. But perhaps people are not aware of the truckload of assistance that industries get either directly or through the taxation and export system with the mining and manufacturing and service industry receiving billions in government help.
Agriculture is unique in that no other business gets the double whammy in times of drought of your income halving and cost blowing out two three or four fold.
We had a drought policy based on “exceptional circumstance”. I remember negotiating it with them Prime Minister John Howard with other state farming presidents.
It had very specific rules that only allowed it to be triggered in “exceptional circumstance”. The problem was as it evolved then politicians interfered playing populist politics freeing it up so it covered events that were not EC meaning it went on for up to six years and became unsustainable.
Rare exceptional circumstance drought happens very infrequently and is nearly impossible for farmers to have mitigation strategies in their risk management tool bag.
If governments want smaller farmers and particularly new young players in our industry they will need some assistance in times of genuine EC and the failure to enact such a policy will only exacerbate the alarming trend of mega farm by out by big family farms, corporates or overseas buyers.
- Mal Peters