Federal Assistance for Australian Farmers: Really?

by hailtothenihilist

Farmers in Victoria are doing it tough. They are in the grip of “drought-like conditions, land devaluations and [are] struggling to feed their cattle” according to The Age. The Federal Government have agreed to help out by providing low-interest loans with a view of consolidating growing debt.

Whole Larder Love‘s, Rohan Anderson, is critical of this and tweeted:

“How to plug an unsustainable agricultural system by the Victorian government … PULL UP THE  ORCHARDS? Logic has been removed and replaced with short sighted economic rationalism”.

I agree with Rohan. I added:

You would be forgiven for thinking farming is a sacred act. The way farmers respond to threats that would make businesses in other industries “shape up or ship out” is indicative of them being [viewed as in] some higher category. But, is this really the case? With farming suffering because of globalisation and competition; are a few local farmers in a drought stricken region really of such great economic importance and benefit? Or should our primary industries be treated like any other?

I’m sort of playing the devil’s advocate here, as I am not a big supporter of free-market economics. I’m concerned that this apparent sanctity is getting in the way of better decisions. Just as one is told they supposedly cannot question another’s religious choice, one ought not question the role of farming in our country or whether or not farmers should be eligible for Federal assistance. From the conversations I have had with farmers, they consider their role to be of unequaled importance. However, the fact that many farmers are doing it tough, and not just because of environmental reasons, but global competition and consumer behaviour too, suggests that they are maybe not as highly-regarded – rightly or wrongly – as they think.

I for one think it’s a dreadful shame that we source so much food from overseas and will not buy Californian oranges or Chinese garlic. However, while ever this is allowed, it seems wasteful and contradictory that the government bailout farmers. There is an important premise that needs to be addressed here: If we care about sustaining agriculture in Australia, then we need to put some substantial protections in place.