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Drought

A consistent and jurisdictionally harmonised policy approach to drought is required to best facilitate preparation an in-event management and to reduce confusion among farmers surrounding their eligibility for relief funds.

Issue

Drought is harsh and is frequent across vast parts of Australia-  and climate change is likely to exacerbate drought conditions. As such, it is imperative preparation and management of drought takes precedence over drought relief.

Parts of Eastern Australia are currently in severe drought, with many producers heading into their fourth year without income.  While Government measures have supported farmers in need well, the lack of consistency in approach has led to confusion as to the variety and certainty of measures available.

Additionally, the administration of drought-relief loans has been onerous and not all farmers affected by drought have been eligible to apply for government assistance.  Government policy must facilitate preparation for future drought events while being as transparent and consistent as possible.

Background

The 2015 Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper addressed the need for change in drought policy, highlighting the importance of providing certainty around drought and risk management for farming families and their businesses. Recent government programs provide financial counselling as well as mental health support to struggling farmers and their families, thus helping rural communities to better cope with drought conditions.

Although the White Paper provides a strong solution in the short to medium term, there is need to develop a more cohesive framework for community in-drought support measures. Moreover, it is necessary to improve the Rainfall Deficiency Analyser which is being increasingly relied upon to test farmers’ eligibility for drought relief measures. 

What the industry needs

  • Develop an adequately funded, holistic National Drought Policy that improves outcomes for farmers in drought preparedness, management and recovery.
  • Establish a communications mechanisms that helps farmers understand and access all drought support available across all Government sources. 
  • Improve the Bureau of Meteorology’s Rainfall Deficiency Analyser by moving beyond rainfall as a proxy for drought conditions and by investing in the weather station network to avoid errors in modelling.

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