National Farmers Federation, President Fiona Simson yesterday took part in the first meeting of the Federal Government’s National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency Advisory Board, led by Shane Stone, in Orange.
The meeting coincided with an announcement of further support for local governments and schools, by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Drought Minister David Littleproud.
Ms Simson said the NFF’s representation as a member on the Advisory Board was focussed on ensuring the ongoing needs of both farmers and communities managing drought were met, and to ensure Australia was better prepared for the next drought.
“The worst drought conditions in 100 years continue to impact vast areas of Australia,” Ms Simson said.
“Recent rainfall was welcomed and has provided relief in some areas, but this moisture will rapidly disappear as we head into another week of record temperatures with no follow-up rain on the horizon.
“We need regular and significant rainfall before this drought looks anything like being over.
“Even when the rains do come, the recovery period will extend over years for many farming businesses.”
Yesterday, the Government expanded the Drought Communities Programme, providing 52 additional councils with up to $1 million.
“We know that the hardship of drought extends way beyond the farm gate,” Ms Simson said.
“Money for local governments to invest in projects and programs that individual councils deem appropriate has the potential to create jobs and provide a morale boost for communities.”
The NFF also welcomed the Government’s announcement of an additional $10 million for non-government schools to help keep kids impacted by drought, in school.
“Continuity of access to education and social opportunities is important for regional and remote students.”
“Many children in our drought-affected rural areas attend school away from home because of the tyranny of distance. This imposes a considerable cost on a farming family’s dwindling budget.
“It’s our strong hope that this money for non-government schools will be directed to school fee relief to ensure children’s all-important education is not disrupted.”
Ms Simson said the NFF continued to call for direct support measures for farmers managing drought.
“The enduring impact of this drought on the landscape and on farmers’ financial positions cannot be overstated.
“Yesterday, with an audience of the Prime Minister, Minister Littleproud and Mr Stone, I urged the Government to continue its focus on supporting rural Australia through this drought.
“The priority is to address the immediate cash flow needs of farmers, to keep people employed on farm and in our towns and to develop a plan for recovery.”
“The NFF continues to advocate for local government rate relief and help with pay roll expenses for farming businesses to keep people in jobs for when the rain does come.
“The NFF notes some states have provided payroll tax, stamp duty and water rates relief to fire-affected residents.
“These types of measures are immediate and material. They help reduce the stress of seemingly never-ending bills when there’s no income to cover them.”
Laureta Wallace – GM, Media & Communications
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