National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Fiona Simson said everything was on the table at the Ministerial drought meeting in Canberra.
Convened by Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud, the roundtable was attended by NFF, state farming organisations and representatives of the major rural lenders.
Ms Simson said the day was the start of a much longer conversation about how to best assist farmers to prepare for, manage and recover from drought.
“Everyone acknowledged that in the past, many State and Federal Governments have, with the best of intentions, tried but not completely succeeded in getting this right.
“We’re now in a position where we can learn from what’s been done, identify what’s worked and what hasn’t, and marry the successes with new ideas and approaches.”
Ms Simson, said the conversation ranged from discussion of specific tools such as farm management deposits (FMDs) offsets, subsidised loans and drought declarations to bigger picture concepts such as better long range forecasting; research and development into new drought-tolerant production systems; and building financial and mental resilience.
Ms Simson thanked Minister Littleproud for hosting the roundtable.
“A prerequisite for a successful drought policy is that is must be designed in consultation with farmers, this consultation process was well and truly kicked off.
“The meeting was an opportunity for our farm leaders to share their thoughts on what measures they believe would assist farmers. Everyone came to the table with sound, practical ideas and everyone was willing to listen to others and to learn from each other’s experiences.”
The Roundtable also included representatives of the major rural lenders.
“It was important poignant to have representatives of the major rural lenders in the room, who are so often at the coal face of drought and its impact on our farm businesses.”
Ms Simson said there was consensus among the group that drought assistance must be equitable and have a minimum of red tape associated with it.
“To have longevity, drought support must go to those who most need it and it must be ‘distributed’ in a fair, equitable and consistent manner.
“We also spoke about the reluctance of farmers to seek assistance, especially when doing so meant they were faced with a bureaucratic mountain of red tape. Farmers don’t need this, at a time when they are already under immense pressure.”
Ms Simson said she was cognisant of the immediate relief needs of drought-affected farmers, and that the group resolved to work on short- and long-term assistance measures.
“Almost 100 per cent of New South Wales is suffering from deficient rainfall and 57% of Queensland is drought declared – in some regions this has been the case for more than seven years.
“The Government, in consultation with industry, has a responsibility to act to help farmers now, and to prepare the farm sector for droughts into the future.”
“We look forward to working with Minister Littleproud on both these efforts,” Ms Simson said.