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Drought reform: finding a better way

By Michael Guerin

Over the last few years, AgForce has developed a very detailed ‘Business Cycle Approach’ policy as a new way of managing climatic cycles.

This approach includes:

  • Empowering producers
  • Mutual obligation from both producers and government
  • A collaborative, science-based approach
  • A mindset of continuous improvement
  • A period of transition for industry

Full details of this approach can be found on our website at

Agribusiness Cycle approach

While influential, our ‘Business Cycle’ model has not been fully taken up by either Federal or State Government in their drought policy development. All three levels of Government in Australia are currently working on fresh approaches to drought and climatic cycles, which gives AgForce a great opportunity to engage and influence outcomes and settings.

A coordinated approach from Federal Government

The Federal Government is coordinating an ‘all levels of Government’ approach to managing future drought through the development of a long-term strategy. To that end, they are creating the Federal Future Drought Fund, to be established by 2020, with an initial investment of $3.9 billion, increasing to $5 billion over time. This will release funds every year to prepare for and manage drought.

What is the State Government doing?

The State Government completed a Queensland Drought Program Review, conducted by an Independent Panel comprised of Ms Ruth Wade and Mr Charles Burke, who presented their report to the Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries in early 2019.

The Panel made 20 recommendations related to each of the drought assistance programs, of which 13 received outright support.

The panel found that the current drought declaration process needs updating to an impartial system trusted by local communities. The Panel further recommended the removal of freight subsidies, additional support for programs such as the Drought and Climate Adaptation Program, the development of programs which could help businesses adapt, and, where appropriate, in-drought assistance to reflect the severity of an event.

AgForce voiced member concerns about the phase-out of freight subsidies but is cautiously open to the State Government commitment to working with industry on the reforms.

In addition to this, in response to the Panel recommendations, the State Government is preparing a Drought Management Framework 2019-2024, which outlines how they will help producers prepare for manage and recover from drought.

Queensland Drought Management Framework 2019—2024

Complete image:

What else is being done?

At the end of 2018, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed and signed a new National Drought Agreement (NDA) to help farming businesses, farming families and farming communities manage and prepare for future challenges and risks in a variable and changing climate.

The NDA builds on drought policy reform, including moving away from Exceptional Circumstances arrangements that require individuals to qualify for drought support, and prioritises objectives and outcomes that enhance long-term preparedness, sustainability, resilience and risk management for farming businesses and farming communities in Australia.

Each of the developments outlined above, presents AgForce with a good opportunity to influence and work closely alongside Governments at all levels.

With this in mind, AgForce is currently putting together a committee of members to ensure we engage strongly in this process to support our industry through future climatic cycles.

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