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Drought support 'most comprehensive yet'

27 October 2018

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed what it believes is arguably ‘the most comprehensive' set of drought support measures ever extended to farmers, following the Prime Ministerial Drought Summit in Canberra today.

"Cynics suggested that the Summit risked being nothing more than a 'talk fest'," NFF President Fiona Simson said.

"I'm pleased to say this was far from the case.

"The NFF has long been calling for a comprehensive drought policy, which can only be achieved if we have comprehensive buy in from all levels of Government.

"To this end, the fact we had the Prime Minister, Premiers, Chief Ministers and Commonwealth and State and Territory Agriculture Ministers all in the room to discuss and agree on the way forward for drought management, was a significant achievement."

“Today, the Prime Minister acknowledged the importance of a strong Inter-Governmental Agreement on Drought (IGA) and called for a collaborative commitment from the states and territories to increase accountability under that Agreement and deliver a long term drought policy for Australian agriculture.

“A renewed Agreement would provide a truly national approach to managing drought and importantly, certainty in how we respond to critically dry times.

“I am assured by the Prime Minster’s comments that the Agreement remains a priority for his Government."

The centrepiece of the additional initiatives announced today by the Prime Minister is a $5 billion Future Drought Fund.

"The Future Drought Fund and further new initiatives focus on building the resilience of not only our farmers but also our regional communities, which we know bear much of the social and economic hardship during drought," NFF President Fiona Simson said.

Ms Simson said the Government should be commended for the ‘highly significant’ and ‘holistic’ measures extended to drought support today and in the months previous.

“Our farmers now have a long term commitment that drought support won’t be made up on the run and measures will be put in place to assist them to build resilience.

“The importance of keeping regional communities strong has also been recognised.

"We know that it’s not just farmers that hurt during drought" Ms Simson said.

"It’s the rural businesses and local councils that support farmers that also require assistance. Extension of the Drought Communities Program will provide this additional assistance."

In addition, farmers will be able to better prepare for drought via investment in water infrastructure through a $50m rebate scheme. Water infrastructure provides benefits now and helps to build preparedness for the the future.

Ms Simson said the NFF was pleased to be given the task of establishing the ‘Farm Hub’, a one-stop, online portal for all drought support information.

“It makes sense for farming’s peak body to collect, consolidate and disseminate information on what support is available for farmers and the rural and regional businesses impacted by drought.

“The last thing farmers have time for is navigating a raft of online resources to access the help they need. We look forward to soon launching the Farm Hub which will provide critical information at the click of a mouse.”

The Drought Summit brought together 120 delegates including farmers, Federal Government Ministers, State and Territory First Ministers and agribusiness leaders to discuss this drought and drought management into the future.

“It was a rare occasion to have the farm sector’s leading minds in the one room with our nation's primary decision makers," Ms Simson said.

“Under the direction of the Prime Minister, the discussion didn’t disappoint with all agreeing that supporting agriculture to better prepare for, manage and recover from drought was of critical importance.”

Ms Simson said the NFF had a plan for agriculture to achieve $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030, up from $63 billion in 2016-2017.

"Being proactive and pragmatic in the management of drought will be critical to achieving this target," Ms Simson said.

New drought support measures announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison:

The establishment of a $5 billion Future Drought Fund to support projects that bolster the drought resilience, preparedness and recovery of regional communities.

Up to $1 million each for 81 local governments to invest in infrastructure and economic stimulus projects.

$11 million to expand the Primary Health Network, including adding two new
PHNs to the existing six to increase mental health services.

$30 million for four charities to provide cash and vouchers to up to 10,000 eligible farm households.

$50 million in rebates for on-farm emergency water infrastructure.
$400,000 for a one-stop online portal, Farm Hub, to be developed by the NFF.

« Drought Summit an opportunity not to be squandered


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