Federal government is launching a $5 billion Future Drought Fund which could, coupled with new policy under consideration, guarantee funds for long-term measures and insulate support initiatives from ad-hoc political announcements.
The fund supports primary producers, rural communities and charities and is being launched at the Prime Minister’s Drought Summit in Canberra today.
Scott Morrison is also putting national drought policy on the agenda.
Listed for discussion at the summit are plans for a synchronised interstate policy covering state and federal governments, as well as plans to promote multi peril crop insurance.
Mr Morrison has played a prominent role on the drought response, swiftly visiting regional areas when he assumed office in August, which has been welcomed by regional communities.
He said he was struck by the “strength, resilience and hope” of drought-hit farmers.
“Our response to the drought has to be the same. Deal with the here and now, but also make sure we plan for the future,” Mr Morrison said.
“That’s what the Future Drought Fund is all about. Putting money aside for non-rainy days in the future.
“The challenges of drought vary from farm to farm, district to district, town to town and we continually need to adapt and build capacity – the Future Drought Fund gives us this opportunity.”
The Fund will support community services as well as agricultural sustainability initiatives such as farm extension services, technology adoption, water projects, infrastructure upgrades, and research programs.
It will be managed by the Commonwealth’s sovereign wealth manager, the Future Fund and priority projects will be determined during the annual Budget process.
Details of funding criteria will be discussed at the Prime Minister’s drought summit, but it’s understood the priorities will change in response to contemporary needs.
The fund will be established with an initial injection of $3.9 billion, growing to $5 billion in 2028. About $100 million a year in funds will be available from 2020.
Farmer groups, research institutes and Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon have maintained their calls for national drought policy over several years and announcement of progress toward an intergovernmental agreement would be welcomed across the sector.
This week, senior ABARES bureaucrats warned that in-drought funding measures like fodder subsidies risked undermining farmer preparedness for future droughts. as well as long-term climate change adaptation.
Mr Morrison has outlined a three-pronged drought response which will be discussed by the more than across three key areas: immediate relief measures, social and economic recovery and planning for long-term resilience.
Around 100 representatives will attend the summit today.
Attendees will get an update on the response to date and the event will conclude with a two hour roundtable discussion between federal ministers, state premiers and agriculture ministers, community and farmer representatives, charities, bankers and bureaucrats.
The PM’s Drought Envoy Barnaby Joyce and Coordinator-General for Drought Major General Stephen Day will address the summit.