The road to recovery for flooded farmers

After fighting to keep their cattle alive through one of the country’s worst droughts in living memory, Queensland farmers have now lost up to half a million head of cattle in devastating floods.

North-west Queensland received a years’ worth of rainfall in under a week, flooding an area equivalent to the size of the state of Victoria, submerging more than 800 farming properties and washing away a lifetime of work.

This natural disaster has been dubbed the biggest agricultural disaster in Australia’s history and a humanitarian crisis.

The financial hit is expected to be more than $300 million, however the situation continues to unfold as the flood waters retreat and the full scale of the flood’s impact will be unknown for sometime.

Farmers have reported losing four years’ income in just a few days.

Australian defence force delivering hay to flood stricken farmers in north-west Queensland. Photo: Rural Aid.

Cattle producer Matt Bennetto told AustralianFarmers he is unable to assess his herd, but reports are that between 50 and 100 per cent of his family’s Droughtmaster and Brahman cattle may have been lost.

“My neighbour in the adjoining property yesterday confirmed he had lost 400 of his 420 Droughtmaster weaner heifers.”

I suspect the remaining will not survive. I haven’t added up what might be our financial loss but it’s probably in the vicinity of $1 million or more.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Queensland accounts for nearly half of the beef production in Australia which grossed more than $11 billion last year.

Australia’s red meat industry is nation-wide and Australia will continue to produce and supply quality red meat from other regions, however it’s predicted that beef pricing will be effected in the short term.

Showing support in times of need

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources announced the Australian defence force will be airdropping five and a half tonnes of fodder to stranded and starving cattle.

Commercial pilots are also using their aircrafts to make smaller drops of fodder and supplies to key areas in rural north-west Queensland.

Road trains delivering hay to Queensland farmers affected by the recent floods. Photo: Rural Aid.

In the past week 50 road trains carrying $350,000 worth of hay have also reached Queensland farmers thanks to Rural Aid’s Buy A Bale campaign.

The Coalition Government has also promised an immediate non-gratia payment of $1 million to each of the flood affected Queensland shires.

“This payment will be for them to use on priorities they deem most urgent – whether that be rate relief for impacted properties, infrastructure, or the disposal of cattle which have perished,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday.

Producers also have access to $75,000 grants as they are in a “Category C” zone , to aid in long term recovery from natural disasters.

Banks have been called upon to “lift their socks” and stand by their customers in these dire times.

Australian Banking Association (ABA) chief executive and former Queensland premier Anna Bligh said banks are standing ready to help Aussie farmers.

Banks stand ready to help cattle farmers and others affected by these floods and other natural disasters through deferred loan repayments, waiving fees and other arrangements.

“Banks have dedicated hardship teams ready to assist, however it’s important that customers contact their bank directly to flag they are experiencing hardship,” she said in a statement.

The road to recovery

AgForce Queensland have come out pleading for all three levels of government to “put aside the red tape, bureaucratic wangling and patch protection” and understand the desperation of so many Queensland producers.

In the short term the agenda consists of managing the welfare of the surviving cattle, protecting them from exposure and starvation, and preventing biosecurity hazards by effectively managing the hundreds of thousands of carcasses.

Rural Aid, CWA and the government, in the form of grants and engaging the defence force, are responding to producers pleas to and providing fodder, fuel and mental health support.

AgForce, Cattle Council and the NFF have been lobbying for support packages from the government.

“The government have already mobilised on the situation but we will make sure its moving in the right direction,” Cattle Council CEO Margot Andrae told RN Breakfast Radio.

“We need to look after the farmers mental and physical health.”

Most producers have lost 50 to 80 per cent of their herd and have no income coming forward. Rebuilding is said to take at least two and a half years as farmers have not only lost their herds but infrastructures as well.

Farmer who are seeking assistance can call AgForce’s emergency hotline on 1800 648 974 as the first stop for help or assistance with the provision of fodder or transport.

Or CLICK HERE for a list of support services and resources.

Andrea Martinello

Andrea Martinello

Andrea is the Community & Engagement Officer at the National Farmers' Federation.

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