‘Falling through the gaps’: Catch-22 for small farmers applying for flood recovery grants

ABOVE: Cows swimming through floodwaters at Coraki. Photos: Rachel Bell

Susanna Freymark

Cattle farmers like Rachel Bell at Coraki need help.

Having just experienced their worst flood ever, they need to rebuild and the flood recovery grants are supposed to make that rebuilding easier.

Unfortunately, Rachel has found herself in the position where she doesn’t qualify for the flood recovery grants because she doesn’t fit the eligibility criteria for a farmer or as a small business owner.

Rachel inherited part of the original Coraki farm from her mother four years ago.

“Since then, we have had two major floods, a drought, the threat of bush fire, low cattle prices and army worms,” she said.

Rachel said there were hundreds of farmers like her “falling through the gaps”.

“We pay taxes, we work our farms,” she said.

“Since the 2017 floods, I have fixed flood damage and been in drought.

“Then I get told my farm doesn’t make enough money to qualify for the farmer’s grant.

“Then I am told I can’t have a small business grant because I’m a farmer.”

It’s only in the past year that the cattle have made good money, Rachel said.

“Over 80% of small farmers are going to have this problem. Where’s our help?”

Cattle at Rachel Bell’s farm in Coraki.

Rachel has a rental cottage to supplement the farm’s income.

“If I could work my farm and make enough money, I wouldn’t need another income. That other income is what keeps my farm afloat,” she said.

During the floods, more than 500 head of cattle (not hers) ended up on the flood reserve next to Rachel’s property.

“All those cattle had to be put through my yards to be trucked out. Because the reserve had no water or yards. Now my yards need major work and tons of gravel to bring them back to quality,” she said.

“For rural grants, the farm must be 50% of your income.

“I work full time and have a rental cottage to help pay the mortgage.”

Any other money goes into fixing and improving the farm, she said.

“I can’t get the small business grant because I’m classed as beef producer.”

That means many of us are again getting no help, Rachel said.

Rachel was grateful her home was not flooded.

“So, I’m lucky, most of my road lost their houses, cattle and farming equipment. And many of them won’t get any help either,” she said.

We have sent this story to State MP Chris Gulaptis, Federal MP Kevin Hogan, Service NSW and to the Premier Dominic Perrottet.

Free hay was delivered for the livestock at Rachel Bell’s farm – “It was a lifesaver,” Rachel said.

Email indynr.com@gmail.com to let us know how you are getting on in applying for flood recovery grants.

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