HEARTBREAK: Clifton farmers Janet and Jeffrey Lack lost fences, top soil and crops when the Condamine River flooded.
HEARTBREAK: Clifton farmers Janet and Jeffrey Lack lost fences, top soil and crops when the Condamine River flooded. Toni Somes

Effects of flood hits farms hard

CLIFTON farmer Jeffery Lack can't find the words to describe the devastation of three floods in three years.

But deep wash-outs in the middle of his cultivated land, muddy heads of sorghum and debris-laden, broken fences paint a grim picture of destruction.

People are going to find it very hard to get back up after this flood. It was pretty hard the last time and we've had ordinary seasons and prices since then.

"This was worse in terms of damage to our farming country than the 2010-2011 floods," the quietly spoken farmer said.

"Back then, we lost $150,000 to $200,000 worth of crops and afterwards, we were forced to increase our overdraft and debt level to stay in business.

"This time, the velocity of the flood water was so strong, we lost an estimated 50 acres of top soil, there are massive holes in our cultivation and practically every fence on the place is gone ... in some cases we can't even find the wire.

"And this is before we even know the impact it's had on crop yields or what our losses are there."

Yet the last thing Mr Lack and his wife Janet want is to be labelled "whingeing farmers".

"We know there are people worse off than us, so many people across Queensland have been hard hit this time," Mrs Lack said.

"It's just so hard when you are living it. When you've put so much into your farm and it all gets washed away and you have to start again for the third time."

The Lacks were amongst a group of Clifton farmers, who met with Toowoomba Regional Council on Saturday to explain the devastating impact of the January floods.

Sharing their stories helped ease the feeling their grim situation had been overlooked in a state grappling with flood disasters.

Landholder Glenn Kratzmann agreed it was reassuring to know local government understood the on-ground situation.

"This was a smaller flood, but this was much more destructive," he said.

"I had 240ha of cultivation I couldn't get across for four days and when I did, I was shocked at the soil erosion and soil loss.

"I would have lost 80ha of top soil and 40ha of young sunflowers and the rest of my crops are damaged.

"The flood-water just tore through the country and ripped out new strainer posts and made waterholes weren't there weren't any."

Where the top soil had washed away the cultivation, Mr Kratzmann had been working to rejuvenate since the 2011 flood was now "as hard as bitumen".

"When I could finally get across the paddock and saw the damage and I have to say I was in tears," he admitted.

"But you spend a few days looking at it and you get over it.

"We'll get on top of it again: it's just a matter of tightening the belt a little more, though I think we are fast running out of leather."

It's a scenario, which further down the river the Lacks can relate too.

"We live on the river and know we have to expect floods," Mr Lack said.

"But to have another one so soon, which is so damaging is just overwhelming.

"I use to say we farmed because it was what I knew and I loved the lifestyle.

"Yet this has taken the enjoyment right out of it for me."

Long-time Clifton local Hilary O'Leary was instrumental in organising the TRC meeting and explained he was motivated by concern for his neighbours.

"We had 45 farmers turn up and they very much felt this was a worse flood than the 2011 in terms of crop damage and soil erosion," Mr O'Leary said.

"And I believe people are going to find it very hard to get back up after this flood.

"It was pretty hard the last time and we've had ordinary seasons and prices since then."

To help farmers begin the task of rebuilding after the floods the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has established a team of 12 Flood Recovery Liaison Officers to work with local communities.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister John McVeigh said the 12 DAFF staff had been chosen based on their expertise and long-standing links with their local communities.

The Flood Recovery Liaison Officer for the Toowoomba and Goondiwindi region is Richard Routley 4688 1121 or 0429 054 616.

The officer covering the Southern Downs is Ross Ballin 4688 1468 or 0407 739 210.



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