ABOVE: Tony Carusi in a field of young sugar cane that was destroyed in the floods.
Cane farmer Tony Carusi said time was critical for planting sugarcane.
“It takes time to get the ground ready and we have ideal weather conditions,” Mr Carusi said at his farm near Woodburn.
The family has three farms totalling 200ha. All of them were flooded six months ago.
A Primary Producer Grant was announced by the State Government five months ago to help farmers after the floods. The criteria for the grant are still unknown and the grant has stalled. No money has been given to farmers yet.
The sugarcane farmers can’t wait for the government because the weather and planting conditions are ideal right now.
“I hope we can get some relief so people have the confidence and the money to put a crop in the ground,” Mr Carusi said.
“It isn’t just the families of the farmers, it’s the mill, the transport industry, the Woodburn community and the other small towns — everyone relies on the agriculture in the area.”
The issues facing farmers including getting seed, sourcing tractor parts and getting rid of damaged and dead crops.
“A day’s work on the large tractor is $700 worth of diesel,” he said.
Mr Carusi has a field of young cane that was destroyed in the floods. It will have to be crushed into the ground.
A two-year-old cane crop is damaged but “harvestable” he said.
A drive along Kilgin Rd into Woodburn still manages to shock. Houses sit wrecked and deserted. Farmland bears the scars of the flood with rows of dead plant stalks drowned by the fast flowing water. It remains a harrowing sight.
With the Broadwater Sugar Mill opening on August 29, farmers will need to start supplying the mill again.
“The mill took a catastrophic hit in the floods,” Mr Carusi said.
“The last thing we want is farmers saying, I don’t think I’ll plant this year,” he said.
Mr Carusi lost 78ha of rice, his entire soybean crop, 80ha of young cane and 95 head of cattle.
“I’ve lived here all my life and seen floods come and go. Never before has there been a flood of this magnitude.”
We desperately need government intervention, Mr Carusi said.
Federal MP Kevin Hogan was at Mr Carusi’s farm.
“The sense of urgency must be maintained,” Mr Hogan said.
“Six months ago, our community was hit by what we now know is Australia’s second worst disaster.”
The Primary Producers Grant was announced on March 18.
“Farmers like Tony need to replant this month,” Mr Hogan said.
“This is time critical. This is urgent.”
The enormity of flood recovery work to be done could be overwhelming but for farmers like Mr Carusi, they simply need help to get crops in the ground so they can grow in time for the next season.
That growth is symbolic of what the community needs.
For Mr Carusi there was learning in this flood – he knows which variety of cane survived and he will plant more of the same.
Mr Carusi is president of the Northern Rivers Flood Action Group, a newly formed group of residents helping each other recover. The next meeting is on September 11 at the Woodburn Memorial Hall at 4pm.
The most crucial issue according to Mr Carusi is the lifting of houses.
“They’ll have to be higher than the last flood.”
How high was the floodwater at his house?
Mr Carusi levels his palm across his chest.
“This is urgent,” Mr Hogan said again.