Deal­ing with the drought

Changes to help bet­ter pre­pare and re­cover


IT’S easy to be scep­ti­cal about events like the re­cent Na­tional Drought Sum­mit, but I was pleased to see a strong spirit of co-op­er­a­tion and a bi-par­ti­san com­mit­ment to­wards im­prov­ing drought pol­icy.

There was a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence from the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment led by the Prime Min­is­ter and Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter, while Queens­land was well rep­re­sented on the day, with the Pre­mier, Queens­land Agri­cul­tural In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter and Drought Com­mis­sion­ers tak­ing part.

The big an­nounce­ment was the $3.9 bil­lion Fu­ture Drought Fund, build­ing to $5 bil­lion, which will fund ini­tia­tives that im­prove drought re­silience, pre­pared­ness and re­cov­ery across re­gional Aus­tralia.

AgForce has long been ad­vo­cat­ing an Agri­cul­tural Busi­ness Cy­cle frame­work for bet­ter struc­tur­ing and de­liv­er­ing drought pol­icy and as­sis­tance mea­sures, and it is ex­pected this new fund will sup­port and ad­vance this con­cept.

We were par­tic­u­larly pleased to see the fund­ing for emer­gency wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture re­bates as AgForce and the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment have been call­ing for this top-up fund­ing since it ran out in Jan­uary 2015.

This pro­gram will pro­vide fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for stock wa­ter­ing in­fra­struc­ture on drought-af­fected farms, with the Queens­land and Fed­eral gov­ern­ments shar­ing the costs.

AgForce’s re­cent drought sur­vey iden­ti­fied on-farm in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment as a top pri­or­ity for farm­ers, and the in­clu­sion of dam de­silt­ing ac­tiv­i­ties had been sought for a long time.

We also thank the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment for the on­go­ing sup­port it is pro­vid­ing to lo­cal gov­ern­ments to in­vest in lo­cal projects.

In­vest­ment in cap­i­tal works projects not only builds re­gions and gen­er­ates em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, it also pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to con­nect com­mu­ni­ties and pro­vide sta­bil­ity.

AgForce would like to see even more in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment in re­gional ar­eas, par­tic­u­larly fund­ing for the In­land Queens­land Roads Ac­tion Plan.

A key find­ing in our re­cent drought sur­vey was that farm­ers were find­ing it harder to know where to go to get in­for­ma­tion on drought and sup­port op­tions.

That’s why the es­tab­lish­ment of the “Farm Hub” is wel­come and will meet a real need.

The Farm Hub will be an on­line por­tal co-or­di­nated by the Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion that will go live by the end of the year and func­tion as a one-stop shop for in­for­ma­tion on drought and drought as­sis­tance.

Other good ini­tia­tives an­nounced at the drought sum­mit in­cluded an ad­di­tional $11 mil­lion for ex­panded men­tal health ser­vices and $30 mil­lion for se­lected char­i­ties to con­tinue their work sup­port­ing farm­ing fam­i­lies fac­ing hard­ship.

On­go­ing, em­bed­ded men­tal health ser­vices in com­mu­ni­ties are cru­cial for sup­port­ing re­silience dur­ing and af­ter drought events, while many char­i­ties have been do­ing a great job help­ing not just farm­ers, but en­tire com­mu­ni­ties that are do­ing it tough.

Drought has such a big im­pact on Aus­tralian agri­cul­ture and ex­tended dry pe­ri­ods are a re­cur­ring fea­ture, so we need gov­ern­ments at all lev­els and politi­cians on all sides to work with in­dus­try on a sus­tain­able ap­proach to man­age this is­sue both now and into the fu­ture.


DROUGHT-AF­FECTED: AgForce gen­eral pres­i­dent Grant Maudsley on Mac­s­land Sta­tion.

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