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The Challenge for Future Drought Policy is Balance

20 February 2006

“The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) fully supports the view of the Agriculture and Food Policy Reference Group that future national drought policy should place a greater emphasis on drought preparedness and risk management, however, we are concerned about arbitrary deadlines for abolishing drought business support,” NFF CEO Mr Ben Fargher said today.

Mr Fargher’s comments are in response to the Agriculture and Food Policy Reference Group’s recommendation that with added investment in drought preparedness, Exceptional Circumstance (EC) Interest Rate Subsidies should be phased out by 2010.

“NFF believes that there is no doubt that through a sustained commitment from Government and industry towards improving drought preparedness on Australian farms, the future requirements for EC business assistance will be markedly reduced.

“However it is unreasonable to expect all farmers to implement comprehensive drought preparedness within the space of the next four years that meets the needs of all potential climatic situations.

“The reality is that many Australian farmers remain in drought, or in the early stages of drought recovery, and therefore face immediate financial pressures in rebuilding their productive capacity and paying the bills they have accrued over the past four years. Farmers will have to first meet these costs, before being able to even consider implementing new drought preparedness.”

“The challenge for future drought policy will be finding a balanced suite of policy and industry initiatives which allow farmers to build their risk management and preparedness, while ensuring that appropriate assistance remains available in the event that an exceptional drought disrupts their preparations,” Mr Fargher said.

NFF believes its proposals outlined in the National Drought Policy Priorities Statement, which was endorsed by the NFF Policy Council last month, strike this balance.

“NFF continues to work constructively with the Australian Federal and State Governments, through the Drought Policy Reform Stakeholder Reference Group which is currently developing proposals for National Drought Policy reform, which will be considered by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council (PIMC) at its meeting in April,” Mr Fargher said.

“The future of national drought policy has been debated for over six years now, and with the Reference Group Report adding further weight to the case for reform, now is the time for industry and Governments to reach an agreement on a new policy framework.” Mr Fargher concluded.

Media Enquiries: Emma Keogh, NFF Public Relations Officer, (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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