‘Things aren’t as rosy as they seem’: Farmers struggling, says Allen

CONCERN: Riverina paddocks which would normally be green by the end of April are dry and dusty, with crops being 'dry-sown'.
CONCERN: Riverina paddocks which would normally be green by the end of April are dry and dusty, with crops being 'dry-sown'.

Things are not as “rosy” as they seem for many farmers across the region, with the state government appointing a drought coordinator due to exceedingly dry conditions.

During the May 1 Bega Valley Shire Council meeting discussion on weed management and control, Councillor Tony Allen told the gallery the “farming community is not doing well”.

Young men and women on family farms are very competent but with prices there’s not a lot of joy in it.

Farmer and councillor Tony Allen

Cr Allen said with dry conditions, and many primary producers leaving the sector, it is becoming exceedingly difficult for new players to become involved.

His family has been involved in the dairy industry for over a century, and he said while young people are looking to become involved in the sector, they can’t afford to make the leap.

Dry weather over the last six months will be pushing farmers further than usual for very little return, he said.

“The people working at the coalface, especially young farmers are working very hard for little result,” he said. 

“Things aren’t as rosy as they seem in the agricultural industry at this time.”

Cr Allen said since the deregulation of milk prices in 2000, the price has remained static, with farmers receiving roughly the same price per litre for their milk, despite inflation.

“The prices are stagnant, and have been very low since deregulation,” he said.

“Young men and women on family farms are very competent but with prices there’s not a lot of joy in it.

“They are working seven days a week, and that’s just the way it is.

The 50 cents per litre some farmers would have received in 2000 would equate to 76 cents today, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s Consumer Price Index.

Cr Allen said many farmers are receiving 45 cents per litre at the moment, and competing against “highly subsidised countries”, is making it difficult for many.

“Somewhere along the line Australians will recognise the need for food,” he said.

“In Australia we had a good price domestically, that opportunity has been taken away.”

He said despite the difficulties modern farmers are linking via social media and creating networks of support.

“There’s a good network of communication that wasn’t around 15 years ago,” Cr Allen said.

“Young guys are communicating with each other using Facebook, it’s a generational thing.”

In 2000 Cr Allen predicted many farmers would be affected by mental health issues after deregulation.

He told the ABC depression and suicide is “a situation that the politicians and the industry leaders don't want to have exposed, but it's there and it's real and I think it's only going to get worse”.

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