Unfair system left farmers without lifeline when drought hit
RETIRED dairy farmer Graham Hoey understood all too well what Melanie O'Dea was feeling when she wrote her poem about the drought.
Mr Hoey and his wife Nancy were standing in identical shoes 13 years ago when they decided to give up their dairy farm at the end of another terrible drought.
But since Melanie's family took over the Spring Creek dairy where Mr Hoey spent his whole life, conditions have worsened and farmers are being paid even less for what they produce.
Wondering whether their farm will last another month, Melanie and her family watch their cows get skinnier every day.
But Mr Hoey said the young family would be in a very different position to cope with the drought if they received a fair price for their milk.
"If you were paid a decent price you could put money away for these difficult times, but the way the system is now, no farmer has got spare money to put aside for the drought," Mr Hoey said.
In the 13 years since Melanie's family moved from Brisbane and took over the dairy, milk prices have dropped 16cents while on-farm costs like electricity have risen.
After 51 years in the dairy industry, Mr Hoey said it was these ongoing financial burdens that put pressure on farmers and could lead to the suicide and mental health breakdowns that Melanie was trying to prevent with her hope-filled poetic words.
"As far as the male side of the family's concerned, he just feels he is inadequate to be able to solve the problem that isn't of his making," Mr Hoey said.
"He goes to bed at night worrying about his wife and children if he can't earn money to pay the bills."
Mr Hoey said he was impressed by the honesty and veracity of Melanie's words when he read the teenager's poem.
"She fully appreciates what is happening," he said.
"Unless you have actually lived on the land, you don't understand - you see what is happening on your own property and neighbouring properties every day and there is no answer but waiting for the rain to come."
Mr Hoey said it was important for farmers to be able to talk about problems and gestures like Melanie's showed them other people care.
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