Sum­mit strate­gies in need of re­fine­ment

Countryman - - LIVESTOCK - Melissa Wil­liams

WA’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor has cau­tiously wel­comed ini­tia­tives stem­ming from the re­cent Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment Na­tional Drought Sum­mit.

But lo­cal grower groups have raised the need for more prac­ti­cal live­stock feed as­sis­tance mea­sures and changes to the farm man­age­ment de­posits scheme.

A key pro­posal out­lined at the Na­tional Drought Sum­mit by Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son was a $5 bil­lion Fu­ture Drought Fund, start­ing with a $3.9 bil­lion in­vest­ment. It would have $100 mil­lion avail­able an­nu­ally for water in­fra­struc­ture and drought re­silience projects.

Other plans in­clude an ex­ten­sion of the Drought Com­mu­ni­ties Pro­gram from 60 to 81 lo­cal gov­ern­ments, with $1 mil­lion pro­vided to stim­u­late lo­cal economies, and a $50 mil­lion On-Farm Emer­gency Water In­fra­struc­ture Re­bate Scheme.

This would cover about 25 per cent of the costs to pur­chase and in­stall new on-farm water in­fra­struc­ture for live­stock use.

WAFarm­ers pres­i­dent Tony York said most of the drought ini­tia­tives an­nounced by the PM were long-term strate­gies and aimed to build pre­pared­ness in farm­ing busi­nesses, which was pos­i­tive.

He said WAFarm­ers had since been asked by the Com­mon­wealth Drought Co-or­di­na­tor, Maj-Gen. Stephen Day, to put for­ward prac­ti­cal ideas about how WA grow­ers could pro­vide fod­der to droughtaf­fected East­ern States farm­ers.

“Our ad­vice is that Gov­ern­ment should not en­gage in mech­a­nisms such as State-backed fod­der re­serves or en­cour­ag­ing the pro­duc­tion of hay through re­serve price schemes,” Mr York said.

WAFarm­ers has sug­gested, in­stead, that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment sup­port de­vel­op­ment of an on­line hay trad­ing por­tal with op­tions for for­ward trades, linked to an app, for live­stock feed op­tions.

“A sim­i­lar plat­form for avail­abil­ity of prime movers and trail­ers would be a use­ful ad­di­tion to help the sup­ply chain work,” he said. “This would go to­wards over­com­ing mar­ket fail­ure by en­sur­ing in­for­ma­tion about sup­ply and de­mand is avail­able at the click of a smart­phone. Aus­tralia re­quires a more ef­fi­cient way to link buy­ers and sell­ers of hay to elim­i­nate the cur­rent in­ef­fi­cien­cies buy­ers and sell­ers ex­pe­ri­ence. And such a plat­form would be a con­struc­tive and ef­fec­tive way to ad­dress the needs of farm­ers in drought any­where in Aus­tralia in the fu­ture.”

Pas­toral­ists and Gra­ziers As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Tony Seabrook said many par­tic­i­pants at the Na­tional Drought Sum­mit were sup­port­ive of his group’s pro­posed changes to FMDs that would en­able funds to be trans­ferred to a su­per­an­nu­a­tion ac­count in an in­di­vid­ual’s fi­nal year of farm­ing.

He said the PGA pro­posed that a 15 per cent tax rate would be a fair “en­try fee” for trans­ferred funds.

The PGA would also like FMDs to be ac­ces­si­ble to pri­mary pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies and trusts.

“Such changes would take some pres­sure off the next gen­er­a­tion tak­ing over the farm and ad­dress the is­sue of many farm­ers not hav­ing su­per in place,” Mr Seabrook said.

WA Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Alannah MacTier­nan said the State Gov­ern­ment wel­comed any ex­tra fund­ing from its Fed­eral coun­ter­part to build drought re­silience and re­sponse to drought.

“It will be crit­i­cal that any schemes take into ac­count the dif­fer­ent ge­o­graphic and eco­nomic struc­tures of the WA in­dus­try, and that our farm­ers have a say in de­cid­ing where the fund­ing should be al­lo­cated,” she said.

“We will ad­vo­cate for a sys­tems-based ap­proach to build­ing drought re­silience, in­clud­ing re­search and in­vest­ments into el­e­vat­ing soil mois­ture re­ten­tion, and fast-track de­vel­op­ment of droughtre­sis­tant crops. In­vest­ment is also needed in build­ing me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal data to help farm­ers man­age risk.”

Pic­ture: Jo Ful­wood

WAFarm­ers pres­i­dent Tony York says most of the drought ini­tia­tives an­nounced by the Prime Min­is­ter are long-term strate­gies and aim to build pre­pared­ness in farm­ing busi­nesses, which was pos­i­tive. Mr York is no stranger to vari­able sea­sons, as ex­pe­ri­enced on his own farm in Tam­min in 2014.

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