RURAL stoicism and a lack of federal government action on long-term solutions for farmers in drought pushed Chris Tchakalian to tackle the issue himself.
His not-for-profit idea, DroughtForce, would see the federal government stockpile animal feed and hay for drought periods and enable farmers to buy it back at cost-price.
“Quite simply when growers are in a position to grow during non-drought periods, the government would put forward contracts for hay much like foreign companies for our hay being exported,” he said.
“The government would own and hold the hay in storage – instead of going overseas it would be available here, and if the government buys it when prices aren’t skyrocketing the farmers can buy the hay at reasonable prices.”
Mr Tchakalian is a retiree with 50 years experience in business management and an economics degree, his idea sparked after a recent visit to Tamworth to donate money to farmers in need.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has predicted more time spent in drought for the country’s southern continental areas and hay supplies have already reached critical levels – with produce being transported from as far as Western Australia and Tasmania.
Drought Special Envoy Barnaby Joyce just announced the Drought Finance Taskforce, a short-term solution that asks the big four banks to shoulder more responsibility and ‘do right’ by farmers.
It’s a plan that’s not viable, Mr Tchakalian said, as farmers do not have the financial resources to enter into forward contracts, more loans and stockpile animal feed to cover periods of drought.
“But the Australian federal government does, and it needs to handle it so that it does not compete with free enterprise until it has to,” he said.
The capital outlay is estimated at $100 million and Mr Tchakalian has written a detailed concept paper on his proposal.
Member for New England Barnaby Joyce did not respond to The Leader’s request for comment.