Farmers are celebrating but…

…some of the media continue to paint a gloomy picture – by forecasting sunshine!

RadioLIVE Newsroom@LIVENewsDesk

Farmers are celebrating rain – up to 50mls in parts of the North Island …
but forecasters say the sun will be back by Thursday

Message to non-farmers – sunshine after rain actually helps grass to regrow.

And a weather forecast expert said that this rain probably signals the end of the stable weather patterns and a return to more normal wet/dry cycles.

You don’t have to have continuous rain for a month to break a drought.

Presland versus farmers

Auckland lawyer Greg Presland takes a generalised swipe at farmers in a comment at The Standard:

There is a certain irony that farmers, who have a reputation for denying that climate change is occurring and opposing provision of social welfare for members of our community who need it should now be seeking a benefit because of a drought that is undeniably a symptom of global warming.

Questions for Greg:

What reputation do farmers have regarding climate change?
What reputation do farmers have regarding “the provision of social welfare for members of our community who need it”?
Which farmers?

And the statement “a drought that is undeniably a symptom of global warming” indicates little knowledge of droughts or global warming.

A drought in one season in parts of one small country cannot be directly linked to global warming or climate change.

Droughts have happened in New Zealand and around the world for centuries, for millenia. They are natural occurrences.

It is possible we may get more severe and more frequent droughts due to climate change, but that could only be determined by trends over many years, not a single event.

There is a certain irony that lawyers, who have a reputation for denying justice if they can make money out of it and opposing provision of social welfare for members of our community so crime rates will remain high, providing them with endless numbvers of clients, now be seeking a political benefit because of a drought that is undeniably an opportunity to score ideological points.

Just in case someone get’s the wrong idea I’m not presenting that last statement as fact, it’s taking the piss.

There is a certain irony that a lawyer slanders so many with so few supporting facts.

Farmers – morale and money

As detailed in my last post there  has been some discussion about providing state assistance to farmers suffering from drought – Droughts and farmers versus beneficiaries.

Despite what some people seem to think it doesn’t sound like farmers are flocking to WINZ offices. In a drought in 2009 20 Hawke’s Bay farmers received payments.

Stuff reports:

Drought declaration ‘a show of support’

Declaring drought is more about morale than the money, according to a Hawke’s Bay farmer.

“It makes us feel better really, that people are recognising that we’ve a problem,” Takapau farmer David Hunt said.

The declaration was more a show of support for farmers, said Mr Hunt, who chairs the dairy branch of Federated Farmers Hawke’s Bay.

“Most farmers are pretty good at helping themselves but if you can’t buy feed because your cashflow won’t allow or you can’t find it, it’s good to know you can source outside expertise to find it.”

What assistance can farmers get?

Government assistance includes the unemployment benefit, emergency benefit, and special needs grants to meet immediate needs and Rural Assistance Payments (at same rate as the unemployment benefit, after an asset and income test).

Help from Work and Income includes childcare assistance, family tax credits and accommodation supplements and from Working for Families, and tax relief, such as filing extensions and options to pay tax in instalments.

Inland Revenue assistance includes advice and support, such as workshops, meetings, technical and financial advice.

Some of that is available to everyone in similar income circumstances.

Banks are also offering assistance:

…would also be putting people in touch with ANZ, ASB and BNZ banks, which had all announced drought assistance packages to those affected.

BNZ was offering immediate overdraft approval of up to $100,000 at a special 6 per cent interest rate to affected farmers, alongside immediate access to emergency family funding of up to $10,000.

Loans to banks have to be paid back.

How much state assistance will there be?

The tight criteria meant few farmers were eligible for the payment. In 2009, 20 Hawke’s Bay farmers received the payment.

Mr Barham expected a similar number would receive the payment this year as the region came off the back of the driest six-month spell since 1950.

It doesn’t sound like there will be a flood of state handouts.

Droughts and farmers versus beneficiaries

As areas of New Zealand declared drought zones in social media there’s been a growing number of comparisons made between assisting farmers compared to not assisting low paid workers and beneficiaries.

Martin Bradbury at The Daily Blog: How the hardship of farmers and beneficiaries differ

Don’t you love how when farmers face hardship the Government can’t rush fast enough to their aid with drought welfare, yet when the poor face hardship the Government responds with drug testing, contraception for solo mothers and 40 hours forced labour in a private prison.

Helen Kelly at The Standard: We’re all beneficiaries now

The recognition of the need to provide income support to farmers during this drought period is illustrative.  It illustrates the importance of having a comprehensive social protection system that steps in when things go wrong including the weather as in this case.   It illustrates the benefit of Farm Owners of having a union that the Government supports and is prepared to fund to provide much needed services such as co-ordination, animal welfare advice and counselling.

Solo mums are a bit like these farmers.  They are working but not earning and need community support to do that.  For them, they now have to attend job preparation courses and look for work.  They can be drug tested, boot camped and have their benefits cut if they don’t answer the phone when WINZ rings them about something. 

Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish (satire): Bennett announces drought relief get-tough measures

Ms Bennett accepted that there was no evidence of widespread abuse of the scheme by farmers.

But she insisted that the new rules were necessary to keep farmers on the straight and narrow. 

“Struggling farmers who are doing their best to manage and who are looking to find alternative work have nothing to fear,” said Bennett. “These rules are about helping to break the cycle of farmer dependency. Some of this dependency is inter-generational. We can’t afford as a nation to have hundreds of farmers begging for help each and every time a drought is declared.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a farmer or a solo mother,” said Ms Bennett. “If you want a handout from this government then the same rules apply.”

Robyn Norrison New Zealand Labour Party Facebook:

As a side note the farmers moan cause they have no feed for their animals and the govt pays them compensation, what about all the low paid families out there that are having trouble feeding their children where is the govt then, making things worse for them.

Mickysavage at The Standard:

There is a certain irony that farmers, who have a reputation for denying that climate change is occurring and opposing provision of social welfare for members of our community who need it should now be seeking a benefit because of a drought that is undeniably a symptom of global warming.

(micky, a one season adverse weather event in parts of one small country in the world is not “undeniably a symptom of global warming”.)

Comments on blogs follow similar themes of “poor beneficiaries” and “undeserving farmers”.

Low paid families already get government assistance continually through benefits, Working For Families, accommodation allowances, doctors subsidies etc etc. (some farmers may also qualify for some of these).

Some are questioning that farmers facing extreme short term difficulties are getting state assistance.

And they want people who are already getting state assistance, sometimes long term, to get more assistance.

It’s financially tough for people on low wages and benefits.

But it’s hard to compare assistance programmes for farmers who are having short term one off problems due to an abnormal weather event, and a mother who some say should have the freedom to choose the DPB for twenty years without question. Or a worker who receives Working For Families tax credits year after year without question.

And I find it highly offensive to make sweeping statements like “… farmers, who have a reputation for… …opposing provision of social welfare for members of our community”.

Also offensive is the “farmers make money so are bad and deserve any kick in the guts they get” attitudes alongside “poor beneficiaries deserve more and more and more”.

This is just blind bias or ideological pissy politicking.

I acknowledge that it’s only short term tough for farmers – but this means with short tyerm assistance they will be back to earning money and paying taxes again soon.

And I know that being stuck on a benefit without being able to find a job is tough, often for longer than a season of dry weather. And solo mothers and families on low wages can experience long term tough.

But that doesn’t justify denying any other state assistance from anyone else.

Farmers who go broke may become beneficiaries.

We are all a part of our state, we are all due some level of state assistance when justified, and we have to understand there will always need to be tough decisions made about the level and length of state assistance provided.