Letter to the editor: Comments reveal ignorance of drought impacts

By Geoff Adams

Sue Braybon

Tocumwal, NSW

I was extremely concerned to read a recent article in a metropolitan newspaper that claimed the drought was a “fake crisis” and that “despite the sob stories, most farmers were fine”.

This ill-informed commentary smacks of someone who whiles away their time in a city office, when they’re not commuting on public transport from their nearby apartment or home.

It shows a quite disturbing lack of understanding about rural Australia, what it has been facing and what many areas continue to face despite recent rains.

In many respects I do not want to give this appalling piece of commentary any more oxygen, because this is probably what the author was trying to achieve. However, people in concrete city offices need to understand the truth, so it must be told.

The ‘fake drought’ has, in fact, been very real; a fact to which the vast majority of farmers would attest, and which mental health issues substantiate.

The drought has been exacerbated by bad government policy, especially in relation to water management. It has removed large quantities of water from staple food producers and allowed the expansion of corporate high value crops, such as nuts.

As a consequence, many family farmers, especially in the southern food bowl, have sat idle and been unable to produce fodder for starving animals. This could have been a big help to those in drought-stricken areas.

It forced farmers to watch rivers running beyond capacity, before the water eventually found its way out to sea or being evaporated in large, shallow end-of-systems lakes.

If you look beyond what some people see as the new definition of NSW (ie. North Sydney, South Sydney and West Sydney), you would find that hard-working Aussie farmers do not want government hand-outs.

All they want is for governments to stay out of the way and let them get on with the job of growing food for our nation and millions of starving people throughout the world.

If you talk with businesses in rural communities who rely on those who produce our staples — foods such as milk, cereals, fruit and vegetables — trying to keep their doors open through this ‘fake crisis’, you would learn the reality, which is that these businesses do not get government support; they have to battle on and hope they can survive the (very real) drought and impacts of our shocking water management.

We need to encourage greater education about Australian agriculture to expose what corporates and government policy are doing to our family farmers.

Despite what some people appear to think, many producers of your milk, bread, cereal, beef, lamb, fruit and vegetables are on their knees and leaving the industry in droves.

So, if we don’t want a future in which our orange juice and latte are made from overseas imported oranges and milk, we need to develop policies that allow farmers and rural communities to survive the ‘fake droughts’ and government water management failures.