The declaration of drought and assistance to farmers has led to accusations that farmers get special treatment.
Federated Farmers’ President Bruce Wills says that isn’t so:
Talkback callers say small businesses cannot get government bailouts so why should farmers? We agree with that statement 100 Percent.
Agriculture had state intervention in the 1970’s and 80’s and not only did it not work, it destroyed lives – something I was reminded of when talking to the Otago Daily Times’ Neal Wallace, who is writing a book on the Rogernonmics era.
It may be the curse of the ‘here and now’ but the late great Sir Peter Elworthy, when President of Federated Farmers, gave Labour the impetus to end subsidies. This also means we cannot rock up to the Beehive when it stops raining to be given an envelope of cash so long as we give some ‘secret farmers handshake’. That is fantasy.
It is not hard to Google Rural Assistance Payments via Work and Income and read the criteria. To the credit of most media that is what they have done.
A RAP is the dole and as such is means and asset tested like any other benefit. For the avoidance of doubt testing includes trusts too. One member of the media who called our comms team late on Friday believed there had been zero applications. We will check that out.
Farm businesses are no different to any other so we don’t expect or want government to ‘bail us out’. If you don’t believe me examine Vote Agriculture & Forestry from Budget 2012.
You will find the budget for Adverse Climatic Events, to provide recovery assistance in the aftermath of adverse events and to assist rural support trusts, is $526,000. As a point of comparison policy advice to government ‘on the community and voluntary sector’ is some three times greater than the entire budget for Adverse Climatic Events.
This budget is also only unlocked by an adverse events declaration. Sadly it is getting a top-up because the last time drought was this bad was 1983.
Then again the rural support trusts who deliver services are run by volunteers on the smell of an oily rag. These trusts are about supporting a community to help itself and it was that kind of ethos we bought to Christchurch with the Farmy Army.
As Katie Milne added in her blogger response, “you must be pretty heartless to say that because you are a farming family who has lost everything or pretty much close to it, that you must be banned from our social welfare safety net just because your occupation was farmer”. The same safety net rightfully is there for Café owners caught out by the economy right through to lawyers falling on desperate times. . .
The RAP is available only to those in the most desperate circumstance, the ones who’d get emergency assistance if they turned up at WINZ.
Any other help is directed at animal welfare and community assistance.
The latter highlights the fact that a drought hits businesses, not just farms but enterprises which support and supply them, across whole regions.
That is very different from an isolated business failure here or there, which is tough for those directly affected but doesn’t have nearly so wide an impact beyond them.
But this is community support. It is not provide a subsidy or direct financial help for individual farmers or their businesses.
New Zealand farmers were brought into the real world without subsidies in the 1980s and even during droughts they’d be foolish to want to go back there.