The persistent drought conditions across Queensland are challenging many farmers from various agricultural industries. The visual impacts, such as dry dams, bare paddocks and hungry stock have led to an increased awareness of life on the land and reminded consumers how important farming is to our society. While many consumers have shown their support for farmers with more conscious decisions to buy local produce and if necessary, pay a little more for it; disappointingly, some people have seen this difficult time as an opportunity to play an unhelpful blame game.
Whether on the floor of Parliament, on a nationally broadcast drought panel or through an online petition, for some drought has become a convenient wedge for political point scoring or for pursuing a narrow, ideological agenda. Under enormous pressure, farmers and rural communities are naturally looking to government for some help and solutions. But too frequently, conversations are hijacked for other purposes and filled with slick rhetoric rather than a listening ear and an empathetic heart.
For Queensland’s dairy, chicken meat, pork and egg farmers in particular, this is having a crippling effect. Our state lost 15 per cent of its dairy farms last year alone, largely due to the drought. Operating high throughput businesses that require a constant, high quality feed supply, these industries currently receive very little or no assistance from the state government to deal with the escalating cost of feed and have been largely unsuccessful in entreating major supermarkets to increase the retail price of their produce. They want to be heard by politicians in Canberra and Brisbane, not treated as a photo opportunity that shows how ‘in touch with the people’ they are, and want practical solutions to make it through until it finally rains again.
Droughts are part and parcel of farming in Queensland and there are no miracle cures or quick fixes. However, a political or ideological blame game fuelled by talking points with the aim of winning votes or pursuing a cause is as fruitless as the parched perennials and as bare as the once grassed paddocks.