Stuart Armitage, Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) President
The scale of the damage from Tropical Cyclone Debbie and the associated flooding has been extensive, from north Queensland to northern NSW. The unpredictability of these severe systems was again demonstrated, and most of Queensland’s agricultural industries have been impacted. It will be some time before the full extent of the damage is well understood and in some way quantified, but the initial impacts have been realised. On the back of this, the government has announced some assistance and the support is already starting to filter though to those primary producers who need it.
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) in coordination with its member organisations have already swung into action. QFF is again playing a key role facilitating between government and industry to determine and coordinate support from State and Federal agencies and non-government organisations
The next couple of weeks are critical for our sector to assess and report the impact of Cyclone Debbie and the associated flooding. The timing is obviously far from ideal. Many farmers are dealing with the very real social effects of what has happened and are trying to get back on their feet. But, it is essential that impacted farmers collect and pass information to their industry associations, that quantifies the extent of the damage to their businesses so we can accurately engage in and leverage the recovery processes in place. This information is very important, regardless of the impact felt in the region, all this data feeds in to the whole of agricultural sector impact assessment.
This information is used by government to determine the impact on regional agricultural production, which will directly be used to determine the size and scale of post disaster support offered. Peak industry associations such as CANEGROWERS, Growcom, Cotton Australia, Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland (NGIQ), Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO), Queensland Chicken Growers’ Association (QCGA), Pork Queensland, Queensland United Egg Producers (QUEP) and the Flower Association are your conduit.
QFF continues to work closely and constructively with government to ensure the appropriate levels of support are on offer for farmers through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRAA). Though too early to know if Industry Recovery Projects will be declared, QFF and industry partners believe that industry is best placed to provide the support needed for industry to recover from this event.
QFF has a dedicated farmerdisastersupport.org.au website that provides postcode and industry specific advice for farmers in the aftermath of a natural disaster. The website is a ‘one-stop-shop’ to access relevant information and the latest updates, and to better communicate the sometimes confusing and overwhelming amount of information that is out there. QFF strongly encourage farmers to use this service as it provides financial, industry and mental health support in one place.
The path to recovery will differ across industries, and it will undoubtedly be a difficult time for many farmers. Some farmers that only experienced mild localized flooding and can grow short season crops may be able to return to full production in months. For others that experienced total production losses, substantial damage to perennial crops or damage critical infrastructure, recovery is likely to take years. It is important however that farmers remember that this journey to recovery is not one taken alone. Industry organisations and QFF are here to assist farmers through this process and are committed to ensuring our sector gets back on its feet, just like it has time and time again in the past.