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DROUGHT RESPONSE MUST BE TWO-PRONGED: RELIEF AND RECOVERY

19 October 2006

The Federal Government’s $350 million expansion of the Exceptional Circumstances (EC) provisions was an essential first step in stopping the haemorrhage for drought affected families and communities – but the focus must now turn to environmentally managing the drought to ensure we emerge the other side with viable farms and our natural resources intact.

“The Government’s expansion of the EC safety net to catch more farming families is, by necessity, the essential first response to the worst drought on record,” NFF President David Crombie said. “EC is effectively Newstart Allowance to put food on the table and pay the bills, along with an interest rate subsidy to help manage farm debt.

“EC is the bandage to stop the bleeding. While NFF is engaged with the Federal Government to ensure EC is more effective and flexible, we are also keenly focused on what is required, beyond EC, to manage drought now and into the future.

“We must also address the issue of recovery. While we can’t make it rain, we know it will rain again, so we need to make sure we’re in a position to harness our natural resources to bounce back once the heavens do open.

“What NFF is looking for, and working with government towards, is a drought management solution. That is, a partnership between farmers and government to seriously address the issues of drought and constructively look at what needs to be done to manage our existing resources.

“This would not only be a way through this drought, but be the starting point for future drought preparedness and management practices.

“Farmers know better than anyone how harsh the Australian climate is and we’ve been successfully managing it to this point. But the severity of this drought, on the back of several dry seasons, has challenged the best farm management and environmental sustainability practices.

“Australian farmers, who occupy and manage 60% of Australia’s landmass, know only too well that their future is inextricably linked to sound environmental management. That’s why they spent $3.3 billion on Natural Resource Management (NRM) in 2004-05 alone – over $1.1 billion on weed prevention and management and $900 million on land and soil-related activities

“In fact, it is little recognised that Australian farmers plant over 20 million trees for conservation reasons each year. NRM practices are in place on 86% of Australian farms, with 92% of farmers undertaking activity to prevent or manage natural resource issues.

“We, as a society, need to recognise farmers are doing the right thing on the land and help them to secure their productive capacity and manage the environment.”

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan, NFF Public Affairs, (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250 email:

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