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Farmers facing unprecedented drought conditions: NFF

17 September 2007

THE situation facing farming families, regional businesses and the rural sector as a whole has become acutely severe across many parts of the country, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) warned today.

“This drought has reached a scale that is unprecedented,” NFF President David Crombie said. “It’s impact has already been felt throughout the entire community and that is set to worsen. Farmers very much welcome the Prime Minister’s extension of Exception Circumstances (EC) for another six months, to September 2008, and interim support in several states.

“The winter rains – which looked so promising just a couple of months ago – sadly, did not eventuate. We face more of the same with dire predictions for a dry spring. Many farmers were relying on a solid winter to rebound.

“Meanwhile, the situation in the Murray-Darling Basin, especially that confronting perennial crop and livestock farmers, is extreme and deteriorating almost daily as zero water allocations for irrigators loom large on the horizon for spring. New measures, over and above EC, may be needed to address the crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin.

“Adding insult to injury, demand for global agricultural commodities is at record highs, with many prices at their highest levels since the 1980’s. Many of our farmers simply won’t be able to take advantage of the situation because of a lack of winter rains.

“Government support has helped, and is helping, but the situation has deteriorated markedly in the past two weeks. The Australian Government has moved decisively today to stand by farmers.

“The NFF believes that the EC assistance program could also be re-examined to give it greater flexibility in meeting the needs of those grappling with the deepening drought. The NFF remains in urgent discussions with the Government about possible options.

“We thank the community for understanding that drought relief is not a hand out – it’s a safety net for the most dire of situations. Farmers manage risk like any other small businesses, and are good at doing so, but this current drought is a disaster on an unprecedented scale.

“It simply keeps the wolf from the door by putting food on the table and paying the bills, and allows farm families to maintain some form of productive capacity for when the drought does break.

“Beyond the here-and-now, farmers recognise that, in partnership with government, we can do more to manage our changing climate and move towards better drought-proofing measures. But we must protect our agricultural base as the first priority.

“Over 1.6 million Australian jobs, 20% of our national exports and over half the food we consume depend on the ability of our farmers to meet climatic challenges.”

[ENDS]

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

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