Many farmers find themselves ineligible for state or federal government drought support

Many farmers find themselves ineligible for state and federal government drought relief and rely upon charitable donations to keep their stock alive. Photo: supplied.
Many farmers find themselves ineligible for state and federal government drought relief and rely upon charitable donations to keep their stock alive. Photo: supplied.

The federal government announced a $190 million drought support package over the weekend which had many farmers breathe a sigh of relief. 

However, by Monday morning, the reality of red tape and narrow eligibility criteria set in and many farming families will remain reliant upon charitable donations to see them through the “worst drought in 100 years.” 

Rebecca Lippa said the fact that her husband, Steve, works as a local tradesman in addition to managing Miranda Park, their cattle farm in Bowral means they are ineligible to receive the emergency “special” payments under the Farm Household Allowance (FHA). 

“We’re a little bit shocked that we’re not eligible because my husband works as a plumber. I’m seven months pregnant and if he didn’t we’d have to sell the whole thing tomorrow,” Ms Lippa said. 

“It makes it tough to have to rely on local donations and help from family and it’s heartbreaking to have to lower our stock, but we just can’t afford to feed them,” she said. 

Tammy Whatman said that recent changes to her employment status had made Mayberry Farm eligible to receive drought support. 

“I was working two other jobs previously to help feed us and the animals, but I just had major surgery and haven’t gone back since then which has made us eligible,” Ms Whatman said. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited a farm west of Dubbo on Sunday to announce that eligible farming families would receive two installments of $6000. One in September this year and the other in March next year. 

“It will help, but we still have to wait another month. We just got a bill for a load of hay which came in early July, that was $19,000 and would last about a week without rationing it,” Ms Whatman said. 

“We’re hoping to buy another truckload of hay with the money we’ve raised so far with gofundme,” she said. 

Ms Lippa said they were two days away from letting go of another two cows from their stock, bringing numbers down to half what they were a year ago. 

“This time last year we had 45 head, now we’ve got 25, including our calves. We’ll be lucky to get $150 for the two we are going to sell in a couple of days. A year ago, they would have been worth about $800 each,” Ms Lippa said. 

“It’s most likely that we won’t be able to afford to buy them back when the drought does eventually break. The hardest thing for us to do was to ask for help, but after having to euthanise some of our animals, we felt we had to do it,” she said. 

Ms Whatman said she and her family were overwhelmed by the support they had received from the community in recent weeks. 

“We’ve been getting beautiful people call in with groceries and washing powder and dog food. My beautiful friend Roxanne held a yoga class fundraiser and when she handed me the tin full of donations, I nearly cried,” Ms Whatman said. 

“We work really hard and we love what we do, but we look forward to the day where we are able to live without being worried all the time,” she said.