“We’re not all basket cases,” one central Victorian farmer recently told me, lamenting the fact agricultural news invariably makes national headlines during the bad times, not the good.
The farmer, who will remain unnamed, said good primary producers planned ahead, expected drought and destocked accordingly.
His point was that, despite all the goodwill in the community with the Parma for a Farmer Campaign and its associated spin-offs, farmers shouldn’t rely on charity, and the farmers that might be reliant on charity aren’t doing the job properly.
Farmers ran sophisticated businesses and harnessed technology effectively, he said, thus making this image of a farmer praying for rain and relying on a government handout either outdated or just incorrect.
Richard Taylor, founder of Growth Farms, which manages $400 million in farms across the country, told the Australian Financial Review over the weekend the farmer victim narrative was unhelpful.
"We want to be seen as a reliable trading partner, which you won't think we are from watching the TV news," he said.
"They are not representative of the majority of what's going on there. The media attention is still pretty extreme. It's disappointing a negative perception is presented of ag."
The AFR also quoted South Australian agricultural marketing consultant Alex Milner-Smyth, who said "messages encouraging supermarkets to donate ludicrous amounts of money" were unhelpful during a drought. She raised concerns that reports and photographs of starving farm animals could trigger a backlash from animal-rights activists.
I’m not trying to suggest farmers in NSW and Queensland are not doing it tough.
NSW authorities last week declared the entire state in drought after a drier-than-expected June and July.
Unfortunately news can at times focus on the negative without providing balance. These are extremely testing times for Australian farmers. Perhaps what should be put to the test is the way this issue is being reported.