As the drought continues to challenge farmers across Australia, the National Farmers’ Federation has called on Government to step up its commitment to farmers and communities in the short and long term.
This week, NFF President Fiona Simson and CEO Tony Mahar met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to discuss ongoing assistance for farmers.
NFF President Fiona Simson is confident the PM, along with Drought Minister David Littleproud and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, understand the significance of the current drought and are considerate of the fact that there is no single solution for the current situation.
“Drought is complex, it is not the same for any one farm business, family or community. While one support mechanism will suit someone, for another it might not be the right fit or they may not be eligible,” Ms Simson sad.
“The NFF acknowledges the measures already in place at the federal and state level. The additional six measures proposed by the NFF are designed to complement these and together, address the varying circumstances farmers and agriculture-reliant communities are facing right now.”
Following extensive consultation with its members, the NFF this week proposed the following immediate measures for consideration by Government:
1. Support for local council rate relief.
2. Commonwealth Government subsidises for the payroll expenses of farming businesses equal to the Newstart Allowance to support local communities.
3. Top up payments of at least $2000 per child to the Assistance for Isolated Children allowance, and additional funding for rural schools and additional support for early learning services in severely drought-affected communities.
4. A 2-year interest free period for Regional Investment Corporation Drought loans.
5. An increased federal-state focus on the eradication of feral pigs which are a biosecurity risk and a highly destructive pest, particularly in drought.
6. Exit packages for farming families looking to exit farming, after an assessment of their long-term viability.
A more effective long term approach to drought
In addition to requesting additional short-term support, the NFF this week also released its updated Drought Policy.
The Policy, which was released to the public on Wednesday, proposes a Commonwealth framework for a more strategic approach to preparing for managing and recovering from drought into the future.
The meeting with PM Scott Morrison, Deputy PM Michael McCormack and Minister Littleproud provided an opportunity to discuss the long-term policy that enhances and builds on the current National Drought Agreement.
“It is important to be clear, that NFF’s National Drought Policy is not about this current drought, but rather a new, more strategic approach to managing droughts into the future,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.
“We acknowledge the current National Drought Agreement. The NFF’s policy provides a more detailed description of the roles, responsibilities, expectations and accountabilities outlined in the Agreement of all stakeholders including the Commonwealth, states and industry – an approach the Prime Minister welcomed.”
The Policy will be discussed at a meeting of state and territory agriculture ministers next week.
“We want all levels of government to support this approach and we will continue to talk to the Federal Government and their state counterparts, to encourage the Policy’s adoption.”
Ms Simson thanked the Prime Minister for his Government’s continued prioritisation of farmers and regional communities as they live through an almost unprecedented drought situation.
“It’s critically important that we focus on assisting those impacted by this drought and to act now, as a nation, to ensure we are better prepared for the inevitable droughts of the future.”