Letter: selling ourselves down the gurgler

Darcey Browning

Darcey Browning

Blessed we are for small mercies. The much publicised big rain event didn't meet expectations on the Mid North Coast. Some got a good drop, others missed out. Out west some useful numbers but patchy. Up here in God’s country a welcome 13mm and some more predicted for early September.

One could not underestimate the pain and despair being experienced by many farmers in NSW. And Queensland. The compassion and generosity of the governments and the public is to be applauded.

There’s always been droughts and floods but people of the land know and expect this even though it doesn't  soften the pain. Long forgotten is the great dry in 1900 to 1902, apart from perhaps small pockets today, nothing has ever compared since. Even 1915,1917,and the early 40s were tough years but nothing to date has eclipsed 1900– 902.

Few, however, understand, other than farmers and many small business operators, the real problem, operating costs outstripping returns.

Since 1970 wages have gone up 22 times. A tonne of superphosphate was $20, now $500. The cow that sold for $200 during the boom in 1970, last year with record prices $1000, up five times. A tonne of wheat in 1974 $100, now $300. The list is endless.

In those days it was commonly assumed 20 per cent input for 80 per cent margin, now it’s the reverse, leaving little to set aside for the tough times.

Like the corner store, the traditional family unit is vanishing. So many farmer’s wives are working out to stay afloat. Many self-employed, small farmers in particular, must envy the take home pay for many employees, topped up with super, workers compo, sick leave, long service leave, maternity leave, compassionate leave, holiday pay, flexi days. All this for just 38 hours clocked on a week.

Sour grapes for grumpy old buggers but many are still saying, we have pulled the wrong string, in many cases the boss, having laid out the cash, taken the risk and the ever increasing burden of red tape and regulation, is taking home less than his employee.

How sad to see that long held dream to own your own bit of dirt wither on the vine, and watch China buy up our agricultural land as we move into town to drink coffee. Be reminded of those sugar snap peas selling locally. Product of China.

Darcey Browning