The first cut is the deepest

A toast to health, wealth and happiness

Art4agriculture is a proud supporting partner of the National Centre for Farmer Health photography competition and I am speaking at their conference in September

The Centre provides national leadership to improve the health, safety and well-being of farm men and women, farm workers, their families and communities across Australia.

The NCFH has been operating since November 2008 and the Centre focus revolves around the ethos “that a healthy Australian farm is a healthy farm family”

Worryingly the the Victorian Government has just cut the Centre’s budget by $1M which will seriously impact on its ability to continue to function.

Passionate advocate for rural communities and rural mental health services Alison Fairleigh has started a petition asking the community to join her “in sending a message to the Victorian government that our farmers are important to the future of this nation and we will not let them be undervalued in this way”

“Last week I was left flabbergasted by news that the Victorian state government had cut funding to the National Centre for Farmer Health which will have implications for farming communities across the whole of Australia. Farmers make an extraordinary contribution to the Victorian economy, as they do to our nation’s economy.  It defies reason that a government would entre into a false economy by cutting back in important areas such as health, mental health and welfare, which will only cost them more in the long term. We as a nation can ill afford to lose any more of our farmers!” said Alison

According to the federal Member for Wannon, Dan Tehan, it is unlikely a cut to continued funding for the National Centre for Farmer Health was a political move and was more likely about tough economic times than politics. He is appealing for a Federal Government lifeline for the centre.

Greens leader Christine Milne says “The greatest challenge for rural and regional Australia is to lift productivity without access to more land and without access to more water. That means massive investment in research and development.”

“They (regional Australia) also need an investment in mental health services, because there are huge consequences for individuals and communities in rural and regional Australia, who have very limited access to mental health services, and they are entitled to their fair share.”

Senator Milne said more investment in nation-building was needed to move Australia “away from the resource based economy it is dependent on and towards a creative, brain based, service and information based economy”.

I am not a great fan of the Greens but Christine is spot on here and it saddens me this country cant seem to get the right balance between health and wealth.

In the case of our farmers we readily admit non-one is forcing us to farm. The majority of us go into it with our eyes wide open to the fact that farming in this country has a volatility index of at least 300%. That’s 3 times that of big supermarkets.  We chose to farm knowing there is no government support and we are at the mercy of both the weather and international events.

Farm Cash incomes

Last ten years have been a bit scary and dairy farmers are not alone

One farmer recently described the last 10 years for farmers in Australia as akin to putting everything you own on black at the roulette table and red came up.

Dairy farmers who supply the domestic milk market are selling their product into a hostile environment.

  1. At processor level and retail level – milk companies like Lion who don’t have a profitable market for their milk are cutting farmer quotas not because consumers aren’t buying fresh milk but because the milk price wars are destroying the milk supply chain
  2. At consumer level. – Modern consumers have little knowledge of modern farming practices and are often unnecessarily concerned about intensification of the industry, environmental stewardship and animal welfare

The declining terms of trade are impacting on farmers ability to manage risk and our ability to secure capital.  This is evidence by the bank sectoring tightening lending for dairy farmers particularly in NSW and QLD. This does not bode well for the future of fresh milk in this country.

Far too many of our farmers are being pushed to the limit physically and this seriously impacts on our ability to cope emotionally

Lets not forget our farms and farmers produce so much more than food that we as a community often take for granted. They produce experiences and values that are often overlooked like our farming culture and heritage and generations of handing down of skills and knowledge,

I agree with Dick Smith when he says

I believe that we have reached the time
when our political leaders should show leadership and say there is always a time when
“enough is enough” and we need to stabilise and  grow the quality of life, not  just the
“quantity” of life.

This petition is the perfect opportunity to send a message to all our governments (State and Federal) that if you don’t have health, wealth becomes meaningless.

You can have your say by signing the petition here

Our farmers our future