The Elephant in the Paddock

how the drought is affecting Australian farmers

The ongoing drought has been hitting farmers hard across Eastern Australia. With water allocations running well short of what is needed for irrigated cropping, and dryland farmers left without rain and critically low soil moisture, farmers nationwide are under intense financial pressure. However, the chief cause for lowered yield and crop viability, rainfall, remains unaddressed by insurers. This week, Hillridge spoke to Greg, a farmer in the Darling Downs in South-Eastern Queensland.

Greg, a broadacre farmer, has serious concerns over whether he will be able to get a summer crop down, due to one of the driest winters on record leading to parched paddocks and dwindling feed for livestock. Unlike many Australian farmers, Greg is largely debt free, meaning that he can make long-term decisions without worrying about having to make loan repayments. Despite this financial security, Greg remains deeply concerned over the dry trend in the Australian climate.

Greg’s concerns are echoed across Australia. Farmers we’ve spoken to in the Riverina and New England regions of NSW mirrored Greg’s worries over a lack of water as well as high feed prices, with feed prices nearing $550/ton in New England, and similarly high prices exhibited elsewhere.

For many farmers, these soaring prices and plummeting water availability can sound a death knell for their farming operations, especially for those looking to increase their property size and value through investment. The lack of rainfall coverage in Australian agricultural insurance leaves farmers exposed to by far the biggest risk: rainfall and water shortages.

Farmers are used to doing it tough; it’s become integrated into the culture of agriculture across Australia. You have good years, and you have bad years. That is just the name of the game. It’s how people’s parents have farmed, and their parents before them. In today’s world, many farmers, like Greg, find themselves increasingly reliant on technological advancements to improve the output of their farming operations, which means taking out increased loans and being beholden to banks, which in turn means increased exposure to the risks of the weather. With Hillridge Technology’s weather insurance, increasingly financially stressed farmers can insulate themselves from the catastrophic years, as 2018 has become for many farmers. With Hillridge, farmers can feel safe in taking out a loan to enhance their farming operation, and get on with the job of producing the highest quality produce in the world.

We want to hear what you think about this. We can set up a time to call you here. If not, take our survey to let us know your opinions about managing risks and how to make farming sustainable across the weather cycle.