The health of farmers and regional communities is the focus of new Federal Government drought support measures.
At a special Drought Summit in Canberra today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $5 billion Future Drought Fund, designed to build the resilience and preparedness of rural towns impacted by drought.
The Government’s Drought Communities Program was also extended, seeing 81 local governments now eligible to access up to $1 million for infrastructure projects to kick-start regional economies and create jobs.
National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Fiona Simson said the measures made the Government’s drought support the ‘most comprehensive’ ever directed to dry times.
“The importance of keeping regional communities strong has been well recognised by the Prime Minister.
We know that it’s not just farmers that hurt during drought.
“It’s the rural businesses and local councils that support farmers that also require assistance,”Fiona said.
More funding will also be directed to regional health services and on-farm water infrastructure.
Up to 10,000 farming families will also be able to access cash and vouchers, through a $30 million resource boost to reputable charities already providing a leg-up to struggling farmers.
While the NFF has been given the task of creating and managing one-stop online portal, Farm Hub, to be developed by the NFF.
“It makes sense for farming’s peak body to collect, consolidate and disseminate information on what support is available for farmers and the rural and regional businesses impacted by drought,” Fiona said.
“The last thing farmers have time for is navigating a raft of online resources to access the help they need.
We look forward to soon launching the Farm Hub which will provide critical information at the click of a mouse.
The Drought Summit brought together 120 delegates including farmers, Federal Government Ministers, State and Territory First Ministers and agribusiness leaders to discuss this drought and drought management into the future.
Fiona said the NFF was buoyed by recognition by Summit delegates of the need for an all-of-Commonwealth approach to drought.
“Today, the Prime Minister acknowledged the importance of a strong Inter-Governmental Agreement on Drought (IGA) and called for a collaborative commitment from the states and territories to increase accountability under that Agreement and deliver a long term drought policy for Australian agriculture.
“A renewed Agreement would provide a truly national approach to managing drought and importantly, certainty in how we respond to critically dry times.
“I am assured by the Prime Minister’s comments that the Agreement remains a priority for his Government.”
Fiona said the NFF had a plan for agriculture to achieve $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030, up from $63 billion in 2016-2017.
“Being proactive and pragmatic in the management of drought will be critical to achieving this target,” Fiona said.