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Social impacts review confirms NFF’s call for drought reform

23 October 2008

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has fully endorsed the findings of the Expert Social Panel on Drought – the result of the most comprehensive assessment of the social impacts of drought on Australian farm families and rural communities.

“The Report emphasises that a dry climate may be a permanent challenge facing Australian farmers and our national food security needs,” NFF President David Crombie said. “This focus reinforces our call to better prepare farmers for droughts, not just support them when the chips are down.

“We support all 37 recommendations, especially the need for an incentive-based preparedness policy for the social, as well as economic and business, impacts of drought. This is the best way to ensure we can prepare for, and successfully manage, future droughts.

“It also underpins the need for a transitional strategy, so that when current drought declarations expire, government investment to support on-farm recovery, planning and preparation for future droughts become a core feature of how this country deals with drought and climate change over the long haul.

“Further, it highlights the stress individuals and families face and the need to better empower farm families in succession planning. As most people would appreciate, the farm is not only the family business, it is also the family home. As such, a smoother handover from one generation to the next – freed from unnecessary regulatory and economic burdens – will mean modern farms will be able to get on with the business of food production under any climatic conditions.

“How we, as a nation, deal with droughts and a changing climate must be a long-term, strategic and carefully structured new direction – not merely a crisis-based and reactive stop gap.

“We also need to cast the net wider in how we think about the social impacts of drought. The Report released today is a great start, but we must not forget that drought has exacerbated existing problems in rural communities, such as education and training shortfalls, a lack of infrastructure, the demise of government and non-government institutions in regional areas, and job and career opportunities.

“Declining services in our regions is intrinsically linked with the social and economic isolation of regional communities and must be seen holistically. Therefore, Governments must look beyond the current drought crisis to commit to strong, healthy and appropriately serviced regional communities.

“Importantly, the Government has restated that those currently in Exceptional Circumstance will continue to be supported through this drought. The Reports’ recommendations are fully consistent with the policy the NFF advocated in our submission to the Inquiry, and we look forward to working with our members and the Government in developing and implementing future drought policy.”

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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