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Comprehensive drought package needed

6 February 2014

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling for appropriate action to address the situation of severe drought that many farmers, their families and communities are facing.

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement today regarding the severity of the current drought gripping much of Queensland, Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia. We need to see that acknowledgement reflected in a comprehensive package of assistance measures,” said NFF President, Mr Brent Finlay.

In the course of their business operations, farmers prepare for drought as best they can, however there are some circumstances beyond levels that the best preparation can withstand.

The current drought has been exacerbated by 2013 being the hottest year on record for Australia, combined with the lowest rainfall on record for many areas. For many farmers the drought comes hot on the heels of a range of issues including the high Australian dollar and suspension of live exports.

“While potential improvements to farm household income support have been raised by the Prime Minister, we need a broad range of measures targeted towards farmers, their families and their communities to cope with the current drought.

“We are not talking about handouts here. We’re talking about short-term assistance in times of extreme hardship, to viable farmers, to help them through these tough times,” said Mr Finlay.

“Factors such as rural mental health services and maintaining a strong rural workforce are needed in the short term, along with boosting income support and other farm business measures,” Mr Finlay said.

“The package that is due to commence from July this year is primarily about assisting farmers to prepare for future droughts, so bringing that forward is not going to offer the level of assistance that farmers require right now,” he said.

The NFF is working with members to identify which measures will be most appropriate to deal with the current drought, and are in regular contact with the Minister around what is practical for delivery.

“With release of the Agricultural White Paper Issues Paper today, there is an opportunity to further improve policy frameworks to ensure long-term profitability of Australian farmers.

“These are strong, viable and productive communities that have been hit by the drought, and when the drought breaks, they will be once again,” Mr Finlay said.

Ends.

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