After years of grinding drought, the rains came quickly, as did the floods and the emergency response that followed. The recovery will be much slower, and will, no doubt involve tons of heartbreak for many producers.
The full scale of the disaster might not be known for months, but it is clear that the northern Queensland cattle industry has been dealt a severe blow and that the recovery will take decades rather than years.
I am proud that AgForce was able to lead from the front during the crucial initial response – playing a key role in emergency fodder drops, coordinating the relief effort with Federal and State governments, councils and emergency services, and working with the federal government to secure a Category C disaster.
I am even prouder of the response from primary producers around the country, many of them droughted, who offered fodder, fuel, transport and manpower to help fellow farmers in need.
Hats off also to the many community organisations that stepped up, in particular Rural Aid, the flying doctor, Blaze Aid, QCWA and the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners, not to mention the ordinary Aussies who donated tens of millions to producers affected by the floods and by the drought that still has more than half the state in its grip.
However, the cattle industry in the north is on its knees and the government needs to step up the same way as the community.
AgForce General President Georgie Somerset and CEO Michael Guerin visited Canberra to brief the government and opposition on the completely new approach required to address this unprecedented natural disaster.
Our five key recommendations will support not only our producers to rebuild, but the communities who rely on them.
We immediately need:
- Restocking support.
- Support to rebuild essential infrastructure.
- Household financial relief for farming families.
- Financial assistance for education.
- Support for rural small businesses, like livestock transporters.
We made it clear that more debt finance alone will be insufficient to rebuild an industry already choking on farm debt. For the sake of the industry, we can only hope the government listens.