The case for drought aid

24 Jan, 2014 01:00 AM
In Queensland alone, almost 65 per cent of the state is officially in drought. Photo: SALLY CRIPPS
The Government has been copping flak from some quarters for supposedly giving too much to farmers
In Queensland alone, almost 65 per cent of the state is officially in drought. Photo: SALLY CRIPPS

OPINION: TWO things have been worrying me lately about the deepening drought faced by many in Queensland and NSW.

One is the stories I'm hearing that there is no support available for people on the land doing it tough. I'll return to this in a moment.

The second is that the Government has been copping flak from some quarters for supposedly giving too much to farmers, and that drought presents an opportunity to rationalise (read shut down) holdings.

I strongly reject this view – viable farmers must be given a chance to both prepare for and then survive drought.

Most farmers have assets which would normally preclude them from getting social security payments when their farm income falls to zero because of a drought or another natural disaster.

But the reality is farmers still have to work and live during a drought, and some have to work harder feeding stock and carting water than they do in good seasons. The problem is they don’t get paid for it.

Farmers can make some preparations for drought, but that does not mean we should be abandoning those who are viable in the long-term during difficult periods. Given the disastrous state of the Federal Budget left us by the Labor Party, we are constrained in what we can do.

But it is important to understand there is already assistance available for farming families.

These measures are not confined to drought and do not require a drought declaration in any given area to be accessed.

  • Transitional Farm Family Payments provide income support paid fortnightly equivalent to Newstart to help farming families in financial difficulty regardless of their location or cause of difficulties.
  • Farm Finance Concessional Loans are available to eligible farm businesses for debt restructuring or productivity enhancement.
  • Free and confidential financial counselling through the Rural Financial Counselling Service for farmers suffering financial hardship.
  • Farm Management Deposits provides a range of tax concessions such as income averaging and deferral of profits from the forced disposal or death of livestock.
  • Health Care Cards are available to eligible farmers from the Department of Human Services, and the Parental Income Test for Youth Allowance.
  • Changes to the way governments respond to drought were agreed to by all governments early last year. A new program called Farm Household Allowance starts on 1 July.

    We should let the new system bed down, but if changes are required I will be happy to work with all parties to ensure farmers get the support they need.

    Barnaby Joyce is the Minister for Agriculture and the deputy leader of the Nationals.

    Date: Newest first | Oldest first


    Eddie Randle
    24/01/2014 5:06:13 AM

    I was working around Longreach in the late 80s and early 90s when the price of wool was 3 times the normal. Some of the farmers told me they had so much money they really didn't know what to do with it. Some 3 years later we had another biggest drought in history and the same farmers were wanting another handout of taxpayers money. The question is is this money going to the right people or just the friends/ relatives of the rich?
    24/01/2014 6:10:22 AM

    If you are asset rich and run out of money, guess what, sell some assets. Where's all the money from when times were good? If there are no good times, why are we trying to produce food out there. Sure, have strict criteria for assistance and those that have a viable business model will get through. But when you realise a lot of businesses aren't actually viable, don't go changing the goal-posts on assistance criteria so that everyone slips through - as per a previous article in Rural Press. Also, please stop threatening us with no food, as is the trend in these forums at the moment.
    24/01/2014 6:48:40 AM

    Geronimo, you really have no idea! A farmers assets are land, stock & machinery. My land would sell at rock bottom prices without a blade of grass or water on it. It is mine only in title, the sale proceeds will just go to the bank & I won't have anything left to buy feed. The stock are starving & worth nothing, we are just keeping them alive using our only other asset which is our machinery. The money from good times goes to the bank to cover the spends from previous droughts. We are a viable business, nothing flashy but this drought is the worst since 1944.
    24/01/2014 8:14:12 AM

    Geronimo, obv food security is something foreign to U,know anyone with a ww2 European background? Ask them. I guess our multicult background causes some of those diff of opinion. Anything could happen, another ww, with the types of economic intereference in economic policy in china and everywhere else this is likely. How about wiping out bees with viruses, U may feel there is lots of food, but when its taken fir granted thats about when problems arise. dont be suprised if the Indos turn up and take our cattle by force, theres a lot of them.
    24/01/2014 8:14:19 AM

    It would be difficult enough to prepare for a drought such as this one, when after 10 very ordinary years there are only 3 good years. But when during those 3 good years, an incompetent and stupid Fed Govt wrecks northern Australia's most important beef market thereby cutting returns by half, then it becomes almost impossible . This is why so many good efficient farmers are in so much trouble and are desperately seeking assistance.
    24/01/2014 8:27:52 AM

    Drought and floods are natural disasters, just like cyclones, earth quakes and tsunamis and totally different from good and bad seasons. For farmers to bulid assets long term, they need enough good seasons that match up with good prices at farm gate to offset the ordinary or poor seasons which don't always match up with good farm gate prices. Over a 20 year cycle it is not unusual to break even after making enough money to live on comfortably. Mostly, in that 20 year cycle, it is possible to update plant too. But some droughts can be too harsh to survive and an extra loan makes the difference.
    Rob Moore
    24/01/2014 8:29:45 AM

    Geronimo-my 5yr Gross Taxable income is $29000 with 16K last year and a guaranteed 0 this year!This time last year - I was looking at probably a record year if things stayed average on rain-prices. What happened was like tidal wave -beef drops 33%, mutton/lamb 28% and we ended up with 6 inches of rain for the full year. This is a well developed asset with NO debt and I would be hard pressed to find a buyer as if I can't make a go of it WHO can?My PPP Bill is needed more than welfare as FARMGATE returns are our trouble. Eddie get that chip off your shoulder!Get out and have a look!
    Brad Bellnger
    24/01/2014 8:36:45 AM

    Eddie the short lived rise in wool price turned into a bust when the government abolished the reserve price scheme in 91 wool dropped to 300 cents kg and sheep were worthless we shot 20 million of them .Australian Farmers receive the lowest level of government support in the OECD. The real boom was 51.Menzies introduced provisional tax and many producers had their big checks taken from them by the government. The Hielbron report 2002 found that government charges account for 30% of farmers costs. Just 2 of these the MLA levy and NLIS will take 2 B $ from farmers over the next 10 years Help us
    24/01/2014 10:10:13 AM

    Thanks everyone for jumping in with a response. I've read your words very closely, more than once. If you go back and have a look at what's been written, what people have actually described is a business model that isn't working. But it's not just the beloved ag industry. Whether it's food, gas or whatever - the fact we have leaders that have not been inspired to value-add in Australia is causing a gradual structural collapse of our industries and economy and social structure. The fact we pay Japanese prices for energy is insane and food may head the same.
    24/01/2014 10:15:42 AM

    Thanks WTF. Well-schooled on food security thanks. It is not your preferred argument. Access to food is not a problem in Australia. But there are going to be major social issues about affordability. Yes, that relates to access to food but is not food security. Availability of food will be secure. The fact that no one can afford it will stump Governments.
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