Farmers vow to push on through worst drought in memory
"DISASTROUS" drought conditions won't drive Southern Downs farmers from their land, despite a new proposal for a federally funded "exit" strategy.
The National Farmers' Federation requested cash packages for drought-stricken farmers desperately seeking a way out.
But a mass exodus could destroy the Australian agricultural industry, according to Warwick cattleman Bill Gross (pictured).
"Once they all start selling out, that's the finish," Mr Gross said.
"If farmers sell up, within a few years there'd be shortages of grain, meat, milk … it would be a disaster.
"Farming is a very, very important part of the Australian economy."
The historic drought has ravaged Mr Gross's land, forcing him to buy feed and water for his cattle.
It's been a hard slog but Mr Gross said he wouldn't trade it for anything.
"Tilling the soil and working the land over the years. It's just my way of life," he said.
"I'd be lost if I didn't have a few head of cattle. What would I do?"
"If I sell I'll have money in the bank, but that's not much good to me."
Gail Gillis said, despite recent challenges, she wouldn't take a cash offer to leave Happy Pig Farm at Stanthorpe.
"If I got up every day and thought about the impact of the drought, I'd probably pack the whole lot in and say we've had enough," Mrs Gillis said.
"But instead we choose to work with what we've got and, right now, we've got a drought. So heads down and bums up and we do what we can to survive."
Mrs Gillis and her husband chose to diversify rather than desert, expanding their offerings to include sheep, apple pies and new market stalls.
"Stuff the bloody drought," Mrs Gillis said.
"If you go down that road of getting rid of farming, who is going to feed the nation?
"Will they sell it all to overseas companies who will turn it into something else altogether?"
Mr Gross said governments should be doing more to keep farmers on the land, rather than encouraging them to move off it.
"That's just the sensible thing to do," Mr Gross said.
"Australian farmers have years of experience, they know how to care for the land and get results.
"So give them money to stay on the land, make their rates cheaper and take off their interest."
The NFF's plan includes relief for council rates but the federal government said that was an issue for the state government.
Mrs Gillis called for more assistance to develop agricultural businesses.
"They need to get a big bloody fund of money and make an honest attempt to talk to people and figure out what they need to survive," she said.
"The situation is changing and we can't keep doing the same old thing and expect the climate to co-operate.
"We need to diversify. If something isn't working, change the game plan."