On the eve of its potential takeover by farm services rival Landmark, Ruralco's agency and farm merchandise network has committed $390,000 and three years of extra fund raising help for crisis support and suicide prevention charity, Lifeline Australia.
Since 2015 Ruralco branches and staff have raised more than $1 million for Lifeline, a figure the company hopes to exceed again by 2021.
Managing director, Travis Dillon, has been at the forefront of Ruralco's staff fundraising efforts, donating his $140,000 cash bonus to Lifeline Australia in late 2016, and running Sydney's City2Surf to promote sponsorship and awareness.
He also joined Lifeline's board of directors in 2017.
Ruralco branches have also supported multiple programs, including awareness training, "farm help" in-community workshops and a national survey studying the mental health of Australians in regional areas.
This announcement comes at a time where we are seeing a disproportionate number of deaths by suicide in regional and rural communities
Canadian agribusiness, Nutrien, which is mid-way through a $469m takeover bid for Ruralco via its local subsidiary, Landmark, has committed to maintaining Ruralco's Lifeline partnership if the deal goes ahead.
The funding will provide ongoing support for rural and regional communities.
"This announcement comes at a time where we are seeing a disproportionate number of deaths by suicide in regional and rural communities versus those in urban areas," said Lifeline's fundraising executive director, Lisa Cheng.
"It is encouraging to know we can continue to provide that same level of support through the new partnership."
Ruralco's commitment to mental health support in the bush coincided with animal health company, Zoetis, also confirming it would renew a partnership with Beyond Blue, raising up to $100,000 to support that charity's efforts in rural Australia this year.
Zoetis, which has staff working closely with farmers, agricultural stores, veterinarians and their families, has helped raise $300,000 in the past three years by donating $5 from each sale of the company's livestock, pig and poultry vaccines and drenches.
Funds go directly to Beyond Blue's support service to help more people in rural communities than anywhere else in Australia.
"Together we've made strong progress in providing tangible contributions to raise awareness of mental health challenges and help fund much needed services directly assisting rural families," said Zoetis' Australia and New Zealand vice president, Lance Williams.
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Meanwhile, Landmark's managing director of Landmark, Rob Clayton, has noted the proven success of the Ruralco-Lifeline partnership and the value in retaining it if the two agribusinesses merged.
"We share the same values. Supporting the communities we live and work in makes sense," Mr Clayton said.
"Lifeline is highly regarded throughout Australia and we look forward to the opportunity to continue the partnership."
Ruralco's Mr Dillon said involvement with Lifeline had extra significance in recent years as many regional Australians had suffered through climate events and financial and social challenges.
"We've all witnessed the devastating long-term effects of drought and floods on farming communities and, by all accounts, there's no guarantee of relief soon," he said.
"Since 2015, through a series of roadshows, mental health workshops and community awareness programs, Ruralco has been able to provide a bit of relief and positivity for regional and rural areas doing it tough.
"Australians are a resilient bunch, however a combination of events can erode the ability to cope."
"It is encouraging to know that if the Ruralco transaction proceeds, the Lifeline partnership will keep flourishing under a new name and that we'll all share the common goal of supporting Australian farming communities."
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