We have reached a time where agriculture, as an industry, has come to accept that farming businesses have to diversify in work and income.
It has become best management practise for us to find ways to maintain multiple strands of income to protect our households and farming businesses against the challenges we continue to face.
That very diversification enables families and agricultural businesses to gain stability and also solidifies the stability of our regions by adding to our workforce; where we operate as locally as possible our towns and communities flourish.
These have become self-evident truths accepted as reality by just about everyone, or at least, it would seem...
In recent weeks the Queensland government released funding packages to support flood and drought-affected communities.
Among them were the Drought Preparedness Scheme, aimed at helping businesses implement infrastructure to protect against some of the impacts of future droughts, and the Disaster Assistance Recovery Grants aimed at supporting the costs of rebuilding after the recent floods.
At odds with the wider agricultural sector, the Queensland government continues to define "primary producer", the essential criteria for access to these program, as "having the applicant's main source of work hours and/or income generated from their primary production enterprise".
Considering that many faming businesses, over the course of prolonged droughts and as a result of floods, didn't actually generate a dime for entire years, this definition has left many shaking their heads.
While farmers sought work off the farm to survive, it beggars belief that the government would lay out the expectation that the primary marker for access to assistance is that you didn't actually try to save yourself when necessary, or safeguard yourself when able, therefore only supporting what many would now consider a poor business model.
Perhaps it's time that departments moved with us in recognising that penalising businesses for trying to become more robust and resilient is in and of itself detrimental to us all.
When we lay out criteria that not only locks good businesses out of accessing these programs, but discourages people from being active in the workforces of their region, then we have a real contradiction in what we aim to achieve in "drought preparedness" or "disaster recovery".
It's time we shifted the definition of primary producer to encompass these farmers and businesses and recognises the progress and contribution we have made in changing the way we do business.
- Bess O'Connor, Goondiwindi
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