Farm future bleak

By ROXANNE MILLAR

KICKING up a cloud of dust with each footstep, Cudgen farmer Sam Raso can only shake his head at the drought that has reduced his paddocks to the consistency of talcum powder.

With each step he takes, topsoil flies off across his farm along with the hopes of a good year farming fruit and vegetables.

Mr Raso's outlook is bleak. The light-cover crops he has planted to retain moisture in the soil are barely growing and planting more means losing more soil to the wind.

But this is just bad luck. What consumes Mr Raso's mind is the breaking of the drought and the problems this will cause.

"What has been happening in the past is the general public don't understand that when we get a horrendous storm, the soil runs off," he said.

"It is bloody annoying because in all their good wisdom they call the Council and complain. The sea turns red, but there is nothing we can do."

As president of the Tweed Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Mr Raso is speaking out on behalf of farmers who expect a huge storm to break the drought and wash away their top soil.

"We want to pre-warn people. This soil is like talcum powder and we are fed up with getting the blame.

"We have contours in the soil that can catch a few inches, but a massive downpour - 10 to 12 inches in a few hours - nothing can stop it. And we don't want to lose it either.

"But I don't think we lose as much soil as most would reckon. Some greenies would disagree, but it is the red dye that comes out to make it look worse than it is."

Mr Raso said the soils leaked minimal chemicals because farmers actively tried to limit the amount in the soil.

Surveying his dusty red paddocks with their tiny struggling green shoots, he said local farmers had experienced a terrible year.

"It is the fourth dry year we have had," he said.

"And it has affected the next 12 months. The avocado trees have had a hell of a lot of bloom, which signals stress, and the fruit has been dropping prematurely.

"It is very difficult. You are working twice as hard for less money under harsh conditions.

"But the good side is that you deserve a few more beers - that is if you can afford them."



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