26 May 2010
A new era in drought support begins today with the introduction of legislation in Parliament that moves drought support from crisis management and uncertainty to risk management.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke announced the WA drought reform pilot on May 5 this year. This will be a partnership with farmers to help them better prepare for future challenges and build more resilient farm businesses and rural and regional communities.
“We are not sitting in the corner waiting until a crisis takes hold,” Mr Burke said.
“For many years we have been in an endless cycle of when times are good, government retreats, but when crisis hits we provide just enough support to keep people in business during those shocking times and the moment times start to be good again, government disappears.
“A key part of our new approach is to test the idea of supporting farmers to develop a strategic business plan, tailored to the needs of their individual businesses.
“Having developed that strategic plan, the farmer is then faced with a choice. They can choose to stay on the land with dignity, or leave with dignity.
“They can, if they wish, access an exit package of up to $170,000 to help with the transition of moving out.
“If they choose to stay, we will help them prepare for the future through the on-farm investment grants.
“The business grants include Farm Business Adaption Grants of up to $40,000 for eligible activities that support farm businesses to manage and prepare for the impacts of drought, reduced water availability and a changing climate.
“There is a further on-farm investment grant of up to $20,000 for eligible Landcare activities which may include managing soil salinity, revegetation, re-fencing or improving wetland management.
“There will also be additional support for any of the 6,000 farmers in the trial region such as counselling services and social support including an on-line counselling service for young people.
“Families who meet a hardship test will be eligible for household support including critical food-on-the-table money.
“Farms are not the only part of regional communities that suffer during times of hardship.
“For that reason we are going to trial a system of grants that local government can apply for to be able to build the resilience of their community.
“These measures deliver on a commitment to reform drought support and are designed to help farmers, farm families and rural communities better prepare for future challenges, including drought and a changing climate.”
“For people who are receiving Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payments, the rules and support doesn’t change,” said Mr Burke.
A total of $17.9 million has been allocated by the Federal Government and $5 million by the Western Australian Government to fund the WA drought reform pilot.
The drought reform pilot will run for 12 months from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011.
For more information visit www.daff.gov.au/droughtpilot.