As farmers prepare for a dry and unproductive summer, there has been an increase in the demand for urgent assistance in rural areas.
According to John Warlters, the chief executive officer of Rural Aid, the number of requests made to the national charity in the past month for assistance with mental health issues, financial counseling, and emergency feed for animals has “effectively doubled.”
“That’s absolutely a symptom of the rapid dry off,” said Warlters. “The rapid dry off has absolutely caused that.”
In the month of June, Rural Aid sent 27 emergency deliveries of drinking water to houses that were only able to rely on rainfall for their water supply. In the previous month, it reached 147.
According to the seasonal outlook provided by the Bureau of Meteorology, summertime in Australia is going to be characterized by maximum temperatures that are well above average and rainfall totals that are well below average.
“There is this beautiful throwaway line that gets tossed around: ‘We’ve had two or three wet years so everyone in agriculture should be humming along again,'” Warlters said. “We’ve had two or three wet years so everyone in agriculture should be humming along again.”
“There are unquestionably those who have done extremely well for themselves as a result of it… However, from what we can tell here at Rural Aid, this is not the case for all individuals.
Sid Plant, 78 years old, is a cattleman who lives on a property outside of Toowoomba in southern Queensland. He looks out at the stark midday sun over fields of barren grass.
Plant stated that the region had not gotten “useful” rain since the month of February, which had left him with only a small amount of grass for his cattle to continue gaining weight.
“We’ve just got to keep going and hope that we don’t run out of feed and hope that there’s a market there when they are ready,” he said. “That’s all we can do.”
Plant submitted an application to Rural Aid in June for a free water tank so that he could protect his land from potential droughts in the future. He only recently received the tank.
Plant stated that they did not want to give the impression that they were accepting a free kick. “We were hoping to do it ourselves anyhow, but it made it a whole lot easier for us,” the person said.
“They are doing a damn good job, which is something that we really appreciate”.
The nonprofit organization gave away another fifty water tanks for free a month ago, but this time there was such a high demand that they ran out of stock in just four hours, despite receiving approximately one hundred applications.
The climate pattern known as El Nio, which was just recently announced, the collapse of cattle markets, and mounting farm indebtedness are all putting extra pressure on producers; nevertheless, rising land values are anticipated to mitigate some of the negative effects of this strain.
Plant explained, “Ever since I received my pilot’s license in 1966, I’ve been studying the effects of climate change.” “Rainfall has been steadily decreasing over the past many decades here. The writing is clearly visible on the wall, and we have no choice but to respond to it.
The activities of the farm are currently being taken over by Plant’s daughter, and one of his teenage granddaughters has expressed an interest in following in her footsteps and becoming a farmer. “I’m trying to do all that I can to help them while I’m here so that they can survive,” he said. “I’m trying to do everything I can.”
A “moderate rise” in the number of applications for the Farm Household Allowance program, which is designed to offer compensation to farmers who are experiencing financial strain, has been noted by the Department of Agriculture.
Bob Musgrave, a rural financial counsellor in northern New South Wales, stated that the number of producers requesting assistance with destocking tactics as conditions deteriorated had dramatically increased. He attributed this growth to the fact that more people were seeking assistance.
During the past month, I have been fielding a query every other day on average. Before then, it was perhaps once a week, and towards the beginning of the year there was not a single instance,” Musgrave added.
“Droughts, floods, pestilence, and disease are universal problems that primary producers face… but they’re getting worse,” said one expert. “These problems are becoming more severe.”