Floods still taking tolls
A STRUGGLING dairy industry was all that kept Kel Stanton afloat last year, after the terrible floods which wrecked his lucerne harvest.
And with every lucerne farmer in the district suffering 100% crop losses, the massive multi-million-dollar impact on the regional economy is hard to estimate, but obviously it is massive.
Although, as Mr Stanton told The Gympie Times yesterday, it could have been much worse.
Speaking during what was a welcome shower of rain, Mr Stanton said the region had only just missed out on being part of the Toowoomba-Lockyer Valley disaster.
"Goomeri got five inches (of rain) in one night.
"If they'd got the 12 inches that fell on the other side of the mountains, a lot of shops in Goomeri would have been washed away," he said.
What happened was bad enough for lucerne growers and the many businesses and working families that depend on them.
You know things are tough when a major crop farmer like Kel Stanton talks about how glad he is to be also in the basket-case dairy industry.
But, as bad as the sinking dairy business is in this post-deregulation age of supermarket price wars, it was the nearest thing to a lifeboat that Mr Stanton, his family and employees had when floods submerged most of his farm and wrecked his whole lucerne hay crop.
Saving his dairy herd was no easy task as the cattle subsisted on rotting hay and silage, their hoofs destroying any remaining pasture.
"I was lucky to have some hilltop, but even there their hooves were breaking through the surface and they were sinking into the mud," he said.
But Mr Stanton said that even a barely functional dairy industry was better than nothing when he looked around for something to keep him afloat.
"Every lucerne farmer around here would have suffered a 100% loss," deputy mayor and nearby cattle farmer Tony Perrett said at the Stanton property yesterday. Mr Stanton said an accident of geography was all that saved large parts of the Goomeri and Tansey districts from a Lockyer Valley-scale disaster.
Even so, Kilkivan copped some of the same devastating weather system, he said.
And Goomeri and Tansey still received heavy destructive falls.
"Pure lucerne growers took the biggest hit," he said.
Government assistance, like the $25,000 Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority grant he received, was welcome, even if the figure seemed insignificant compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of infrastructure he lost.
"It did help," he said.
"We had bores and pumps we'd set up about two to three feet above anything we'd ever had before, but they still went under.
"The funny part is that Goomeri has had bigger floods, but we haven't. It was just all this rain that was falling here on that Friday afternoon."
Ironically, there has not been much since and Mr Stanton was still irrigating yesterday. "We'd like some rain now," he said.