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No certainty: Farmers still in the dark on drought

3 May 2013

Farmers facing uncertain seasonal conditions will also face uncertainty in the Government’s response to drought, with the federal and state agricultural ministers today failing to provide any further detail regarding Australia’s national drought policy.

NFF Vice President Brent Finlay and Chair of the NFF Drought Working Group said while it was promising to see the states and territories signing up to the National Drought Program Reform, the five elements agreed today are the same as what was announced following the last Standing Council on Primary Industries (SCOPI) meeting in October 2012.

“Seven months ago, the federal and state agricultural ministers met and agreed on five key elements that should be included in a national drought policy package to commence on 1 July 2014: promoting Farm Management Deposits and taxation measures; a national approach to farm business training; a coordinated, collaborative approach to the provision of social services (including rural financial counsellors); tools and technologies to inform farmer decision making; and farm household support.

“Today, the only step forward that has been made is that each of the state and territory governments have now agreed to these five elements. While this is certainly positive, what today’s announcement failed to do was provide the detail that underpins these five elements.

“Farmers already knew that these five elements would be available: what they did not know, and what they still do not know, is the framework under which each of these elements will be made available, what eligibility criteria applies, and what in drought support, if any, will be applicable to them, should their farm be consumed by another serious drought.

“Today’s agreement does not commit to federal in-drought support, but rather a series of principles on which in-drought support can be provided by the states and territories if needed. This does provide the option to ramp up in-drought support if needed, but it leaves this decision up to the respective states – it does not provide a national framework, meaning farmers will be treated differently in each jurisdiction.

“We call on the Federal Government to deliver the detail that underpins the National Drought Program Reform – and indeed, the Farm Finance package delivered last week. Farmers are out on their farms making the tough decisions – it’s time for Government to do the same,” Mr Finlay said.

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