NFF meets with PM to discuss immediate and long-term drought management
The National Farmers Federation met with Prime Minister, Scott Morrison last night to discuss both what more could be done to assist farmers and communities managing this drought and a long-term policy to guide the nation’s response to future droughts.
Drought Minister David Littleproud and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack also attended the meeting.
"The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Littleproud absolutely understand the gravity of the current drought situation and we appreciated the opportunity to discuss further measures to assist farmers and communities in the management of what is now one of the worst droughts in living memory," NFF President Fiona Simson said.
"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.
"The NFF acknowledges the measures already in place at federal and state levels. The additional six measures proposed by the NFF are designed to complement these and together, address the varying circumstances farmers and agricultural-reliant communities are facing right now."
As a result of consultation with its members, the NFF has 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 week ago the NFF provided the Government its newly-endorsed National Drought Policy, a proposed Commonwealth framework for a more strategic approach to preparing for managing and recovering from drought into the future. The meeting was the first opportunity to talk through the long-term policy.
"We spoke to the Prime Minister about a new long-term constructive approach to future drought 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.
"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 NFF understands the Policy will be now 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."
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