NFF: Milestone day in drought approach

National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson said the official start of the Future Drought Fund was a milestone day in the nation’s approach to drought policy.

During 2019, the NFF supported the development of the Future Drought Fund, which will invest $100 million annually in projects and tools to improve the drought resilience of farmers and regional communities.

“The NFF and our members have continued to call on governments at all levels to recognise drought as an ever-present challenge, even during seasonally good years.

“For too long, as a country, we have been reactive towards drought.

“The activation of the Future Drought Fund is an important milestone in Australia’s approach to drought,” Ms Simson said.

In October 2019, the NFF and its members endorsed a new National Drought Policy. This policy clearly defines the delivery of the Future Drought Fund as a key responsibility of the Commonwealth.

“We were pleased to have the opportunity to present the Policy to a meeting of Federal, State and Territory Agriculture and Drought Ministers in Moree in November,” Ms Simson said.

The NFF’s National Drought Policy prioritises objectives and outcomes that enhance long-term preparedness, sustainability, resilience and risk management for farming businesses and farming communities in order to minimise the impact of drought.

Ms Simson said it was pleasing to see many of the priorities identified in NFF’s National Drought Policy addressed in 2020 Future Drought Fund projects.

“The projects identified in this first tranche of funding are broadly consistent with the aims and intent of the National Drought Policy.

“It is important that the Future Drought Fund continues to ensure it funds projects that are aligned with the National Drought Policy. It is regrettable that the Fund does not explicitly require coherence and consistency with NFF’s Policy.

“Agriculture is more volatile than any other sector of the Australian economy.

“The deployment of risk management tools by farmers with support from consistent, and well administered government risk management policy are key to managing this volatility.

“It is great to see that many of the projects announced today include a focus on assisting farmers to better manage financial and climatic risk.

“We are particularly pleased with the allocation of $20 million for a national Farm Business Resilience Program. The NFF has been advocating for the roll out of this sort of program for sometime. It will give farmers key tools and insights to manage their financial risks,” Ms Simson said.

“Many of the projects directly align with NFF’s goal for 90% of Australia’s farmers to be employing multiple financial risk management tools by 2030.”

The Future Drought Fund’s investment has been shaped by consultation with the NFF and its members and by input from the expert consultative committee led by fourth generation farmer and former NFF President Brent Finlay.

“It is important that drought policy in Australia is a collaborative effort, with formal input from governments, communities, farmers and other stakeholders.”

Ms Simson said each project receiving Future Drought Funding once in operation, must be assessed for its effectiveness against what it set out to achieve.

“A key element of the NFF’s drought policy is the formal monitoring and review of drought assistance measures. This ensures that measures are effective, fit-for-purpose and reflect the lived reality of drought.

“As a nation we have not yet got drought preparation, management and recovery right but today represents a landmark step towards significant improvement,” Ms Simson said.

The eight 2020 Future Drought Fund programs are:

  • The $20m Farm Business Resilience program will provide farm businesses with training to strengthen their strategic business management skills and develop a farm business plan to build risk management capacity and drought resilience.

  • The $10m Climate Services for Agriculture program will fund the development and delivery of interactive digital ‘climate information services’ for the agriculture sector to assist farmers to make real-time decisions.

  • The $3m Drought Resilience Self-Assessment Tool will provide an online self-assessment tool for farmers to self-identify drought risks based on a range of social, economic and environmental indicators, and take action to build the drought resilience of their farm business.
  • The $20.3m Drought Resilience Research and Adoption program will establish two regionally located Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs, and Innovation Grants will become available to research organisations, private sector, industry, not-for-profit organisations and community groups.

  • The $15m Natural Resource Management (NRM) Drought Resilience program will fund regional NRM bodies to undertake projects to build drought resilience of natural resources on agricultural landscapes, and there will also be grants available to organisations, farmer groups and individuals to undertake NRM projects to build the drought resilience of natural resources on small scales.

  • The $3.75m Networks for Building Drought Resilience program will support community-driven projects that enhance drought resilience and strengthen networks, including small-scale infrastructure projects to make community facilities drought resilient.

  • The $7.45m Drought Resilience Leaders program will develop leadership capability in communities and include a mentoring component to foster uptake of innovative practices to build drought resilience of farmers and their businesses.

  • The $10m Regional Drought Resilience Planning will provide funding to consortia of local councils or equivalent entities to develop Regional Drought Resilience Plans for agriculture and allied industries.