DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS: Farmers connect with drought aid
CLEAR skies weigh heavily on the small town of Texas, where one farming family searches online for solutions to help their ageing community through drought.
For months, a steady stream of frustrated farmers flowed through the Croft family's side business, Texas Treats, desperately seeking ways to access financial assistance.
Lifelong Texas resident Amanda Croft said lots of their customers were older and unable to access online resources to see what kind of farming funds were available.
"As a cafe we're a meeting place and so we've had people coming in to get things off their chest, telling us they're in a bad spot and that they don't know what to do,” she said.
"So a few of us got together with Joan White, the president of The Texas Lions Club, to form a little group to help them get information and fill out forms.
The group, thus named Texas and District Drought Support, created a Facebook page and sought funding from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, to help connect struggling residents with a range of different initiatives.
"We've had quite a few people go on to get assistance from the Queensland CWA and the New South Wales CWA to help with household bills, we've helped people fill in forms for rural aid and a whole range of things,” Ms Croft said.
For some, however, options are fast running out.
The Texas community long relied on supplementary income to support their farms through tough times, but those meagre financial boosts are now preventing them from accessing the help they need.
"We've always had to have wives work off farm or husbands go hay baling or shearing at someone else's farm,” Ms Croft said.
"But once you start to earn more from that than from the farm, you're not eligible for government assistance anymore.”
This means families who earn as little as $15,000 a year from part time work are now ineligible for assistance if their farms failed to produce in the last financial year.
Failing farms also prevent residents from securing aid that comes from having a primary producer certificate, as these are only available for those who have earned more than $20,000 in the last 12 months.
"Lots of people think farmers are getting all this money, but many aren't getting anything at all,” Ms Croft said.
"But they still have rates to pay and animals to feed.”
The run-on effect is hurting the entire Texas community, where Ms Croft says several families have already sold up and moved out.
"Jobs are getting cut back and farmers aren't spending money,” she said.
"It's flowing through to the supermarket and other businesses in town.
"Wives come in and throw their hands in the air, saying they don't know why they're still feeding their sheep and cattle when their husbands are in their 70s.
"They're not sure how much longer they can do it, but when that's all they've got and you can't sell because no one is buying, you have to keep going.”
Those who remain stay bound by survival and Ms Croft hopes community initiatives such as the Texas Show and the drought support group strengthen their resolve, with members sharing inspirational quotes and mental health advice.
For more information please visit facebook.com/groups/TADDS