Historic Drought Meeting a Chance for Unity and Bold Change: Marshall
A MEETING of all State and Commonwealth Agriculture Ministers in Moree tomorrow will be an important step toward locking in a unified national drought strategy, Northern Tablelands MP and Minister for Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said today.
Mr Marshall called the special AGMIN meeting, the first outside a major city, to provide his counterparts with an opportunity to see first-hand the toll the prolonged dry is taking on local communities and discuss the response to ongoing drought and drought recovery in their jurisdictions.
Mr Marshall said if communities like Moree were to have a future governments at all levels needed to stand together on drought policy.
“I feel to some people in this country the drought is just something playing out on a television screen, but the fact is this is a national crisis – one we are living through here every single day,” he said.
“Early tomorrow morning the Ministers will be taken on a tour of a property at Terry Hie Hie, where they will meet with farmers and hear directly about the barriers and benefits of current drought support measures.
“Moree Plains Shire Council will also present on how the drought is affecting rural townships when it comes to keeping businesses open, retaining staff and ensuring sustainable water supplies.
“Prolonged droughts are the single biggest issue facing rural Australia and unless we work together to support communities now, my fear is we won’t have a strong viable agriculture sector in the future.”
Mr Marshall is calling on Commonwealth, state and territory governments to come to the table and and back a national income protection scheme to insure farmers against future droughts tomorrow.
“As this devastating drought rolls on and continues to ravage our rural communities it’s clear governments need to think big and take ambitious action to protect our farmers and businesses against future droughts,” Mr Marshall said.
“The NSW Government is of the firm belief that the best drought assistance measure a government can deliver is to help the agricultural industry self-insure and remove some of the volatility in the sector.”
In July the NSW Government announced it was committing $2 million to partner with the National Farmers Federation (NFF) to explore insurance models and called on other governments to sign up.
“The State Government has taken the lead on this issue but it’s bigger than any one state or territory,” Mr Marshall said.
“It’s national in scale and that’s why we need buy-in from all governments across the country, especially the Commonwealth.
“Farmers in places like Canada and Europe are already able to access these kinds of schemes but in Australia national farm income protection models have proven elusive. It’s time that changed.”
The NSW Government and National Farmers Federation are scoping potential insurance models that would protect farm incomes during drought or times of natural disasters. The project involves evaluating insurance models in overseas jurisdictions and will identify the best way to deliver such a product in Australia.
Mr Marshall also wants to see a far more streamlined approach to existing drought assistance, where farmers wishing to access support only need to contact one body to apply.
“The current division of funding responsibilities would remain, but the Commonwealth Government would simply cut a cheque for its share and NSW would administer it through the Rural Assistance Authority,” he said.
“We also need to agree on drought recovery measures and jointly fund one set of programs and not repeat the current mess of drought assistance, which requires those in need to talk to two levels of government with different programs with different legality to criteria.
“I’m hopeful tomorrow’s meeting results in real outcomes and I thank my colleagues have taking up the opportunity to fly out here and experience just a taste of what Moree has to offer.”