SOMETIMES you scratch your head and wonder what motivates people.
In his FarmOnline blog last week, incoming Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm had this to say about the plight of our farming colleagues in south-east Queensland:
“In economic terms, it makes no difference to our national prosperity whether an individual farmer … goes broke.
“When a farmer goes broke, the farm does not disappear or food production cease. There is always someone else, quite often a neighbour, willing to purchase the farm.”
“Food production, if that is what the farm is used for, barely falters.
“Even if a third of the farmers in the drought-affected areas were to go broke this month, which is not even remotely likely, there would be no adverse consequences for the rest of Australia. No shortages, no price rises, nothing.”
Well, why worry about them then, you ask.
Economics commentator Alan Mitchell jumped on the bandwagon too, in The Australian Financial Review:
“Drought is a regularly recurring part of Australian farming. If farmers can’t make enough profit in the good years to see them through the inevitable drought years, they are not viable … We have to reverse the slowdown in farm productivity. We also need to better target consumer needs in Asian markets. We won’t get that by mollycoddling undercapitalised, inefficient farmers.”
There’s a gaggle of these types, droning on about why we should not prop up what they deem to be unviable farms.
Prop up? Unviable? Who are these jokers?
If a farm is unsustainable, are they really suggesting a neighbour would buy it?
And I suppose if somebody flew in with a bag of money to buy the farm and give the poor farmer some sort of life in his retirement, they would be shooed away because foreign investment is unacceptable. The farmer can’t win.
Should governments withhold public funding support from people in urban communities when they suffer from floods or bushfires, even when they could reasonably be expected to take out insurance?
Farming can be a heartbreaking occupation in a very perilous environment. Farmers are at the mercy of elements that can wipe out their crop and they can do little about it. They can lose their crop on the day before they were planning to harvest it – and descend from hero to zero in a matter of minutes.
Most farmers are also completely at the mercy of the market. They do not dictate the price of what they produce. They take what they can get for their produce.
Farming is a greatly misunderstood profession – it is more than a business; it is a way of life that binds generations of families together and binds small communities together. Importantly, farmers manage large swathes of Australian landscape and also generate significant export income that underpins the Australian economy.
Yet they come in for an unmerciful bagging from all and sundry.
Jan Davis is chief executive of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association.