Last week the National Farmers' Federation put forward two proposals.
First, we presented a robust and detailed National Drought Policy that is all about improving how we as industry and all levels of government better coordinate and manage future droughts. Something, that is currently sorely lacking.
Secondly, in consultation with our members, the NFF outlined six short-term initiatives to assist farmers and communities manage THIS drought. This included recommendations on things like rate relief; payroll tax support to maintain farm workers; more funding for pest and weed control and additional assistance for school costs.
We appreciated the chance to meet last Tuesday with Prime Minister, Scott Morrison; Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Drought Minister, David Littleproud to discuss both these proposals.
Perhaps not surprisingly but nonetheless disappointingly, the media focussed on one idea that farmers could be provided with assistance to transition out of agriculture. Politicians looking for an angle, distanced themselves from it and commentators professed to be personally affronted.
This specific proposal is simply designed to start a conversation about what can be done to remove or reduce barriers for those farmers making the voluntary, informed and tough decision to leave their current business.
We know farming is much more than a business, it's a way of life and for many it's been a multi-generational endeavour. The idea of providing options to farmers who may wish to pursue a different path in these troubling times should be embraced not condemned. It's an incredibly personal and I'd say brave decision. I'm proud that the NFF is leading a conversation about options for farmers with the central tenant being the wellbeing of farmers.
Contrary to some of the headlines, it should go without saying that the NFF is motivated to keep and attract people to our sector.
This is exactly the objective of the NFF's National Drought Policy, a plan for a new strategic, coordinated approach to preparing for, managing and recovering from drought. In developing our new policy, the NFF with our members, went back to the drawing board.
The result is a new approach with a focus on diversity and accountability. The NFF's National Drought Policy calls on industry and government to commit to continual improvement and to assessing how as a Commonwealth, we're dealing with drought from a land, business and community perspective and importantly make changes when an approach isn't working.
Agriculture has a strong and immensely positive future.
The NFF has developed a plan to see agriculture become a $100 billion industry by 2030. Australia is a nation of droughts and flooding rains. Drought is forecast to become more prevalent into the future. More effectively, planning and responding to drought is crucial to agriculture reaching it's $100 billion potential.
Crucially as summer approaches, the NFF and our members continues to talk to governments, about what more can be done to support farmers and communities through this drought.
*Tony Mahar is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Farmers' Federation
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