Receding waters reveal ‘heartbreaking’ agricultural damage as Queensland floods wipe out entire crops

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Rotten and crumbling crops and eroded riverbeds have left deep scars on farmland along the border rivers between Queensland and New South Wales.

Farmers are starting to realize the extent of the damage as floodwaters begin to recede in some areas.

“The impact of these recent floods is simply heartbreaking and devilish,” said Natasha Johnston, a Queensland agricultural charity, Drought Angels.

The Dumaresq River has been flooded twice this year and has inundated surrounding farms.(Provided: Darryl Cleeve)

Successive natural disasters

For the second time this year, the Dumaresq River overflowed last week, inundating farmland near Texas, 300 kilometers southwest of Brisbane.

“Up to 100 percent of the barley crop has been lost in the district and the cotton has also been damaged at 30 percent, according to reports from friends,” Texas farmer Greg Finlay said.

Farmers were still recovering from the March floods which also destroyed entire crops.

These disasters follow a record drought culminating in the driest years on record in 2018 and 2019.

“Many of my farmer and business owner friends are feeling numb by yet another natural disaster,” Finlay said.

Texas farmer Adam Cleeve stands in a dead barley crop
Texas farmer Adam Cleeve was just dry days away from harvesting his crops.(ABC Southern Qld: Jon Daly)

For some, these crops represented the first stable cash flow for several years.

Texas farmer Adam Cleeve lost his entire barley crop within days of harvest.

“Basically the harvest is ruined,” Mr. Cleeve said.

Mr. Cleeve said the flooding could have caused up to $ 100,000 in damage to his properties.

“We’ve had so many losses that you get used to it after a while,” he said.

Farmer Greg Finlay removes a fence from flood debris.
Texas farmer Greg Finlay said the local community has mobilized to recover.(ABC Southern Qld: Jon Daly)

Reason to hope

The critical difference between the recent flooding and the March event is the crop stage.

While many winter crops ready for harvest have been irreparably damaged, some recently planted crops can survive if wet weather lingers.

The flood also replenished water resources in areas still recovering from drought.

Mr Finlay said he was also comforted by the resilience and support of the local community.

“Everyone knows they’re just going to come in and make it work,” he said.

“We’re going to be fine, we always do.”

Industry groups say many rural properties remain isolated, so the full cost of flood damage to crops and properties will not be known until the wet weather subsides and the waters recede.

A farmer kneels in a flood destroyed barley crop
The full extent of crop damage will not be known until the waters recede.(ABC Southern Qld: Jon Daly)

A hand

The Queensland government and the federal government have extended disaster assistance to primary producers affected by flooding in central, southern and western Queensland.

Financial assistance is provided through jointly funded disaster recovery funding agreements in the form of low interest loans.

“[This] will provide concessional loans of up to $ 250,000 to primary producers and essential working capital loans of up to $ 100,000 to continue on-farm operations, ”said Bridget McKenzie, Federal Minister of Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience.

Local charities BlazeAid and Drought Angels are also helping.

Natasha Johnston walks out of an aisle with a handful of Christmas presents.
Drought Angels, a Queensland-based charity, sends Christmas gifts and food baskets to farmers affected by the flooding.(ABC Southern Qld: Jon Daly)

Drought Angels delivered emergency food baskets by road and even by helicopter to families in need.

The association also sends Christmas gifts before the end of the year celebrations.

“I actually spoke to a few families last week who said they could no longer afford Christmas presents because of this flood. They cannot afford Christmas presents for their children,” he said. Mrs Johnston said.

“The Christmas spirit is not going to be broken for them.”


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