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Drought pilot up and away

5 May 2010

“THE new drought scheme to be trialled over 12 months in Western Australia is a sensible, practical and forward-looking approach that takes account of climate risks and proactively manages them,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie said today.

“We all know drought relief is a stop gap measure. Farmers, the broader community and politicians are sick of arbitrary lines on maps that determine drought assistance, and which fail to account for the needs of individual farmers.

“Our plan, which forms the basis for the Federal Government’s trial, is to better drought-proof Australian farms by investing upfront in on-farm climate adaptation and mitigation practices. Things we know can work.

“This proactive investment in managing climate risk is designed to reduce the strain on farmers and on taxpayers during future droughts. We have long insisted that it’s smarter to invest in drought management and preparedness practices today and, over time, reduce the need for drought relief.

“For years we have been calling for a shift in the policy focus from ‘drought relief’ to ‘drought management and preparedness’. Underpinned by mutual obligation, we have long asserted this requires a “generational shift in thinking and that we – as a nation – must rethink how we plan for, and deal with, drought in a changing climate”.

“In February 2010 we called for a pilot scheme, specifying the need to run it in an area not currently drought-declared and based on the principles we have consistently put to government. WA fits the bill.

“Piloting the scheme in a region not suffering drought gives farmers and the community a good look at how the new arrangements will work on-the-ground and, importantly, the ability to iron out any kinks well before being applied across the country.

“Throughout we have had one overriding proviso. Support for families currently in drought must not be changed while they remain in drought. Drought-stricken farm families are under immense pressure and it would be unconscionable to pull the rug out from under them.

“That enshrined, we are on the brink of a new era in how Australia deals with drought. It is a positive strategy that takes charge of future climatic risks.

“A trial is a sensible way forward and the NFF, working with WAFarmers and our other members nationally, will interrogate in detail the operation and progress of the trial to ensure any national system is solid and works for farm families.”

For a full rundown of the seven overarching principles the NFF put to the Federal Government for the pilot scheme, see the NFF’s Pilot needed to get drought reform off the ground media release and the NFF’s 2008 submission to the Productivity Commission Draft Inquiry Report into Government Drought Support at: Submissions to Government.

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