How the floods have hit farmers

I’ve had a go at describing what the floods are like over in Queensland, but this email I received today from past Nuffield scholar Ronald Thompson gives a better impression of what farmers are going through over in the worst-hit areas.

Ronald farms near Chinchilla, about 300km north-west of Brisbane. Chinchilla was just getting back on its feet after being flooded in December, but this week saw all the clean-up work left in tatters after 7.4 metre flood waters tore through the town. The photo is from the first floods last month.

chinchilla flood

Hello to all,

This is an update to inform you all of what has happened over the last 3 months and more particularly 3 weeks and 3 days. We are safe, the house is fine and all are well. We have lost 80% of the winter crop and have no summer crop in. It is hard to believe but we have not had enough dry days to get the crop in. We have foregone a great peanut contract and the area that would normally have them has had water over it 6 or8 times in the last 8 weeks.

I have spent the last 10 days cleaning up the floods in Chinchilla and Condamine only to have a flood come through higher than before. Two days ago we had 185mm in under 4 hours which saw our irrigation dam with 1.4m of free board go within 125mm of going over the top. It was frightening, though the by washes handled it. The water behind our house over-topped the house dam and came within 8m of the house. We have lost fences and large areas of soil near the dams, though the zero till has stood up well in comparison to other properties.

At this stage we have lost a years income and the next income will be December from the 2011 wheat crop. Our bank is supporting us though I am nervous about our ability to get through. I have a management job with Origin energy on their properties so at least we can live day to day.

We are so much better off than many friends who have nothing left and have lost friends in the floods. The enormity of all this is worse than anything Queensland has experienced before. In our area roads, bridges and the rail is washed out. There is talk of it costing the state $5 billion, that is a joke, I would but it closer to $50 billion. With in the vicinity of 50000 businesses and people affected it has to be more.

In Chinchilla, our supermarkets have closed their doors due to going broke so there is only a corner shop for 2500 people. There is no food in Chinchilla, Miles, and Roma. There is no infrastructure to get the food to anywhere out here. This means that a massive effort will be needed to feed the people. This is a disaster on a scale that has not ever been seen before. The flow on effect to the economy should but the brakes on any further interest rate rises in the short term.

It is amazing to have endured 10 years of severe drought including 2006 when we had 152mm for the year to this when we had 152mm in 2 hours last Monday! The irony is that the flood may be what finally cripples us. Thank you to all those who have called and the support mentally has been fantastic.

Cheers

Ronald

Thanks to Ronald for letting me publish this, and for the loan of the photo.

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