As a farmer crushed by this drought, the sudden collective push is equal parts welcome, but vexing. We need to ensure we’re protected, not the subject of clickbait activism.
As a drought-affected farmer, it’s hard not to remain cynical. It’s hard to look at a grace package and think “is that all?”, and it’s hard to not see what cash-heavy enterprise gains by helping us.
The drought has been brutal, but it’s been this way for some for years. For my business, the margins have always been thin. In the last quarter, they have been positively emaciated. No-one gets into farming to get rich. We do it because it’s what we know. And by and large, our problems fall on deaf ears.
Unless it’s nationwide news, we’re kept in the dusty corners of Radio National at best.
I’ve known personally of four families ruined by suicide. It’s common. An unknown address and the problems of an unknown family don’t make the news. Why should they? One begets another. Hope runs dry, and tragedy springs in its place.
And, all of this has been the farming experience in modern Australia. All of this preceded this horrific drought.
However, as one individual amongst many, I know I’ve taken this sudden surge of attention suspiciously. Why now? Earlier this week, the PM made a decision to give each of us $12,000 in “drought relief”, which seems like a lot of money for jam, but even on a smallish property like mine, it’s a pittance. Going off the market rate, the average price for a cow per head is around $300. Your average dairy farm has about 200 cows. The simplest of maths figures that to be $60,000.
Malcolm Turnbull has already said that the measures were “designed to keep body and soul together, not designed to pay for fodder.”
The above figuring is just the cost of stock, not taking into effect transportation, feed and everything else. We’ve been comparatively lucky, but even for us, it’s a drop in a particularly cavernous bucket.
Elsewhere, Coles has promised to match “dollar-for-dollar every donation by Coles’ customers for the entire month of August to help farming communities doing it tough due to drought conditions.”
It seems as if this help is a tool of advancement. Malcolm gave enough to seem like he’s helping. It gives Coles a leg-up in their supermarket war. Coles managing director John Durkan said: “We know our customers want to do more to support families affected by drought. For every donation no matter how big or small, our customers can be assured they will be making a difference to the rural communities experiencing hardship and distress.”
Everyone looks good, and everything feels like progress. Not enough to truly help, but enough to make it seem like they’re helping us, when they’re helping themselves. As for a solution? We need lasting legislation. Something like an expansion (and universal support) of the Farm Management Deposit scheme, something that allows us to save for that rainy day when the rain is not forthcoming.
We don’t need your charity, we need lasting change.