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A step in the right direction, but time for action on drought

26 October 2012

The Federal and State agriculture Ministers have today met to decide the future of Australia’s drought policy – and the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) believes that while the outcome is a step in the right direction, greater commitment to action is needed.

“In the lead up to today’s meeting, the NFF has been working with the Federal Government to ensure the drought policy decision finds the right balance between allowing farmers to build their own self-reliance, through risk management and preparedness, and ensuring appropriate assistance is available to farmers in cases of severe or prolonged drought,” NFF President Jock Laurie said.

“We believe an effective drought policy must focus on both preparing farmers for the next drought during the good seasons, and acknowledging that there may be periods of drought in the future that will require more than an ad-hoc policy response.

“Today, the Ministers have shown that they are listening by committing that their respective Governments will look at a range of drought preparedness and response measures, including farm household support payments, promoting Farm Management Deposits and taxation measures, farm business training, social support services and tools and technologies to inform farmer decision making – all things the NFF and our members have been asking the Government to enact.

“While this is a step in the right direction, we want to see greater commitment to implementing these measures, plus in-drought business support measures. It has taken five years to get to this point – we cannot wait another five years until there’s a policy outcome on drought.

“While the Bureau of Meteorology has downgraded its prediction of a return to El Niño, as farmers know, the next drought is a case of when, not if – and it is essential the right policy is in place well ahead of the next big dry.

“We will continue to work with the Federal Government and our members with the respective State Governments to ensure that work proceeds on drought policy as a matter of priority.

“It is essential that the Government not only considers, but also acts upon, measures to support farming families and farm business to help them both prepare for, and respond to, drought – and this is what we’ll continue to push for following today’s Standing Council on Primary Industries meeting,” Mr Laurie said.

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