An important step towards ensuring Australia is better prepared for droughts into the future was taken at a meeting of Commonwealth, state and territory agriculture ministers in Moree today.
The National Farmers’ Federation addressed the AgMin meeting on its long-term drought policy.
The document, which has the support of NFF’s 35 members, maps a government-industry approach to assisting farmers to prepare for, manage through and recover from drought.
President Fiona Simson said the NFF welcomed AgMin’s support for the establishment of a Working Group consisting of Commonwealth, state, and territory governments and the National Farmers’ Federation.
Put forward by Drought Minister David Littleproud, the Working Group will be managed as a partnership between the National Drought Agency and the NFF and will be a standing item on the agenda of every AgMin meeting.
“A key principle of NFF’s Drought Policy is that drought be an ongoing contemplation of Government, rather than one that is addressed only in times of crisis.
“This Working Group will go along way to achieving this.
“The NFF has long called for a mechanism to review and assess the effectiveness of drought measures on offer to ensure farmers are getting access to the tools they need to prepare for, manage through and recover from drought.
“Today the Commonwealth and states and territories agreed to report on their existing drought support programs at the next AgMin meeting.
“A clear line of sight across the assistance on offer, will ensure transparency, avoid duplication and facilitate a greater understanding of what support best helps farmers and communities,” Ms Simson said.
The NFF also continued its conversation with governments about payroll relief and local government rate reprieve for farmers managing this drought.
“Worryingly, as summer sets in and the expense of Christmas looms, the financial position of many drought-affected farmers will be getting even more dire.
“State-facilitated payroll tax and rate relief would be welcome respite for many farming families, struggling to make ends meet.”
Discussion was also had about the financial risk management options available to protect farmers against the perils of drought.
The NFF is working with the NSW Government on developing a framework for such options.
Rewarding farmers for the environmental works they carry out on behalf of all Australians was also on the agenda.
“Farmers manage 51% of the Australian landscape,” Ms Simson said.
“A financial return on these works could provide a much needed new revenue stream and deliver environmental benefits for generations to come.”
As part of the meeting in Moree, Ministers visited the property of NSW Farmers, Board member Rebecca Reardon.
The Reardons have made the decision to fence off five hectares of pasture and plant native trees, in the interests of promoting biodiversity.
“Under an ecosystem services reward model, the Reardons would earn a return for these efforts, something that could be a financial lifeline during drought.”
Ms Simson thanked Minister Littleproud and newly-appointed Drought Commissioner, Shane Stone for their leadership is achieving today’s good result.
“I also acknowledge Minister McKenzie and her state counterparts for coming ready to achieve a result in the interest of all farmers.
“Together, we have taken a ground breaking step towards a new approach to drought management in our country.”