Article by: Hari Yellina
Some primary farmers say they are still unable to receive financial aid a month after floods decimated northern NSW. After the floods in March, Bungawalbin flower farmers Suellen Thompson and her husband Gray Pritchett were left with only a few roses to show for a year’s labour. However, because they earn more than half of their revenue off-farm, they are ineligible for the $75,000 incentive available to other primary producers. Ms Thompson tells AAP that “what we’ve established is that we’re not entitled to a small business grant because we’re primary production, and we’re not entitled to a small business grant because we’re primary production.” Last year’s flower farmers, who sought a change of scenery from Brisbane, are now living in a motorhome.
“It says coming soon across the website right now, it’s like the new movie,” a furious Ms Thompson explained. She claims that the inequitable system is preventing them from recovering. She claims, “We know we’ve thrown in up to $100,000 in the previous 12 months.” “We need to know what options are available to us… Is this something we’re going to construct organically from the ground up again? What exactly are we doing? Suddenly, we’re in the midst of nothing, surrounded by nothing.” The flower farmers are hoping to get back on their feet, but they must rely on their savings for the time being. They claim they are hoping for government assistance after paying taxes for 30 years.
Mr Watts is also hand-feeding his surviving cattle, which costs him thousands of dollars. Because he gets the majority of his income off-farm, he is not eligible for the $75,000 primary producers grant. The Rural Landholder Grants of up to $25,000 are administered by the NSW Government and co-funded by the Commonwealth, according to a spokesman for Senator McKenzie’s office. They are available for landholders who are not qualified under the existing assistance mechanisms. The Commonwealth and NSW governments have not stated when the funding will be available.