Agriculture ministers converged on Moree in northern New South Wales today with drought the #1 item on the agenda.
The National Farmers Federation was invited to outline its vision for an enhanced national policy for preparing for, managing through and recovering from drought.
In support of NFF’s policy, Ministers supported a proposal by Drought Minister David Littleproud for the establishment of a new Working Group to evaluate drought support measures.
The Working Group will be a partnership between the National Drought Agency and the NFF and will be a standing item on the agenda of every AgMin meeting.
“The NFF has long called for a mechanism to review and assess the effectiveness of drought measures on offer to ensure farmers are getting access to the tools they need to prepare for, manage through and recover from drought,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.
“A key principle of NFF’s Drought Policy is that drought be an ongoing contemplation of Government, rather than one that is addressed only in times of crisis.”
The announcement of the new Working Group on Drought Measures comes on the heels of Minister Littleproud’s call for ministers to ‘stand shoulder-to-shoulder’ with Australian farmers and rural communities who are facing one of the worst droughts on record.
“States last year signed up to the National Drought Agreement and as the next step at today’s Ministerial Council, they have agreed to report on their current assistance measures,” Minister Littleproud said.
“This brings more transparency for farmers who want to access help, and less red tape.
“It also means there will be greater confidence in what help is available.”
“A clear line of sight across the assistance on offer, will ensure transparency, avoid duplication and facilitate a greater understanding of what support best helps farmers and communities,” Ms Simson said.
The NFF also continued its conversation with governments about payroll relief and local government rate reprieve for farmers managing this drought.
“Worryingly, as summer sets in and the expense of Christmas looms, the financial position of many drought-affected farmers will be getting even more dire.
“State-facilitated payroll tax and rate relief would be welcome respite for many farming families, struggling to make ends meet,” Ms Simson said.
Discussion was also had about the financial risk management options available to protect farmers against the perils of drought.
The NFF is working with the NSW Government on developing a framework for such options.
Rewarding farmers for the environmental works they carry out on behalf of all Australians was also on the agenda.
Before the meeting, Ministers visited the property of NSW Farmers, Board member and grain farmer Rebecca Reardon.