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Doubt surrounding new national drought policy

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Federal Agricultural Minister Joe Ludwig has announced Australia’s new National Drought Program Reform which is designed to help landowners prepare rather than react to drought.

The reform includes developments in the Farm Management Deposits Scheme, household payments and farm business training as reported by ABC News.

“The new policy is about building preparedness into rural Australia for a drought policy that will endure,” said Ludwig.

Katrina Hodgkinson, NSW Minister for Primary Industries believes that the new scheme promotes a proactive rather approach as opposed of the reactive response that the former policy, the Exceptional Circumstances scheme, was criticised for. 

 “There’s no doubt that in the past there has been a lot of concern about the former Exceptional Circumstances model,” Hodgkinson said.

“There will now be a Farm Family Subsidy scheme in place in a style similar to Centrelink, so if people are doing it particularly tough there will be particular benefits for them.

“We’re also encouraging greater preparedness for times such as drought or other extreme weather conditions.”

The deal has not come without criticism with NSW Farmers president, Fiona Simpson stating that she was disappointed with the reform as it has only formalised announcements made last year.

“The conditions are now starting to bite right across the state... and really we had higher expectations that we were going to get more detail about a strategic approach on this,” she said.

Simpson said that she welcomed the preparedness concept of the reform but stressed that the policy needs a more strategic approach that assured a level of certainty as dry weather approaches.  

“When farmers are heading into drought or natural disaster, that is not the time to be having discussions about what they need.

“We need to have those things cemented earlier and we thought that some of those things would have happened,” she said.

“Farmers everywhere at the moment will be looking at this announcement and will not be seeing the recognition that they are seeking from governments.”

Image courtesy of Vinoth Chandar via flickr

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