I was scared. The earth was scorched bare, cockchafers had decimated our paddocks and feed was at record prices. I’d been brought up on the land but was new to the experience of actually holding the reins.
I didn’t want to let my husband know how scared I was, either. He was new to farming altogether and we were betting everything we had on my skills, our sweat, the international commodity price cycle and the weather.
When we became eligible to apply for exceptional circumstances funding, I sought guidance from a Rural Financial Counsellor then locked myself in the office for two long days and sweated over the paperwork.
The first envelope in return said my application had been rejected because I was not a farmer. I was, and still am, earning some off-farm income to feed the family and the assessing officer had decided that, since I would naturally be working 38 hours a week in total, and I was clearly spending time non-farming, I was not farming at all. The reality was that I was working into the small hours to survive. After a lot of persuasion and quoting industry statistics, he conceded that, yes, perhaps I was a farmer.
The next envelope said my application had been rejected because our farm was unviable. He told me I had to show we could pay back all our loans in 10 years as well as achieving an 8% return on investment to prove my viability. My bank manager just laughed when I told him. “I don’t think of any of my clients could achieve all that,” he said.
I gave up.
Why am I telling you all this? Because there are a whole lot of people out there under the impression that drought aid is dished out like boiled lollies. Maybe I went about it the wrong way. Maybe I hit a particularly tough assessor having a tough time. But don’t tell me it’s easy pickings.