I must admit that I am feeling more detached than usual from the rest of the world in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has nothing to do with social distancing or lockdowns though. My sense of disconnectedness comes from the fact that, apart from the need to clear a border checkpoint when I go to town for parts, my life is unchanged. The rest of the country, and indeed the rest of the world, seems to be consumed by all things virus related, but for me the relentless pressure of trying to run an agricultural business with the perpetual uncertainty of ongoing drought remains all consuming. In the face of this pressure, the inconsistency I see in the governments' response to the social and economic impact of COVID-19 as opposed to the drought I am still living is hard to reconcile and more than a little offensive. Don't get me wrong, I fully support the efforts to contain both the virus and the impacts associated with it. If anything, as a spectator, I am a little bemused that those efforts were implemented so slowly. People have been financially devastated without an income in as few as a few weeks. Even those with a less precarious financial position are feeling the deep stress of the economic uncertainty that lies ahead. In response the government has poured stimulus into the economy because of disruptions to commerce associated COVID-19. They have doubled welfare payments and made it easier to access as well as a raft of other stimulus packages, all the while citing the importance of stabilising the economy and underpinning a speedy recovery. I am not suggesting that these people are undeserving of support. Far from it. However, I can't help but feel that when you consider the response of the governments to social and economic distress of COVID-19 versus the same kind of social and economic distress that afflicts rural and regional Australia in the face of an unprecedented drought is appallingly inconsistent. I am not comparing the scale of the pandemic, nor downplaying its global significance or the personal loss or cost of those closest to it. I am asserting simply that the economic impacts of the loss in income and the raft of social impacts that flow from that are almost identical to the social and economic impacts experienced by rural communities in times of drought. The only difference is that the drought and its impacts are for the most part geographically contained. Sure, COVID-19 is a sudden upheaval and drought is a slower insidious disruption, but the net impact of loss of income to the entire sector is the same and just as devastating. Agricultural businesses have suffered significant curtailment of income for years and these drought losses have flowed through towns resulting in ongoing job losses, business closures and population declines. While the world's attention is captured by COVID-19, and despite some areas receiving some welcome and relieving rain, the drought and its impacts continue to devastate rural and regional economies and communities. Drought of the magnitude we are currently enduring affects entire rural economies, not just farmers. I am incensed more than ever that the decent rural people (not just farmers) who, through drought, lost their jobs and businesses were and are somehow less deserving than people suffering the same imposition due to COVID-19. The rapid and generous response deployed by governments in the face of COVID-19 rams home the value, or lack thereof, apportioned to rural and regional people and communities. While I bear no malice or resentment toward the people who are receiving much needed support in the face of COVID-19, it is confronting to observe the disparity shown to rural people in the face of drought. Some will say this is not the time to be talking about it, but in my honest opinion they would be wrong. Rarely will the political disadvantage of rural Australia be more powerfully highlighted than in the comparison of the COVID-19 stimulus response and the lacklustre drought response. While COVID-19 dominates the news and provides governments with an identifiable and universal enemy to rally and unify public opinion, it follows that there is a greater acceptance and greater political kudos for making otherwise unwinnable decisions. Now is the time for farm leaders to leverage the strategic importance of agriculture and agricultural communities to the national interest today and into the future. If we do not speak up now, governments will continue to fail rural and regional communities. - Peter Mailler is a third generation grain and cattle farmer on the NSW/Queensland border and a regular columnist for ACM Agricultural Publishing.