10 December 2019
The Agriculture Ministers’ Forum (AGMIN) held a special drought meeting in Moree, NSW on 10 December 2019. Agriculture ministers met to discuss the worsening drought conditions and each government’s response to support drought-affected farmers and communities. This special drought meeting was chaired by the Australian Government Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, the Hon. David Littleproud, and the Hon. Shane Stone AC QC participated in the discussion in his capacity as National Drought Coordinator.
The Bureau of Meteorology presented to Ministers regarding the current climatic conditions and forecast for the summer season. Ministers expressed concern about the forecast continuation of dry conditions and the pressure continued drought would place on farmers and their communities.
Minister McKenzie provided an update on changes to Farm Household Allowance arrangements. These improvements will help more farmers through periods of hardship and will see more than 30,000 farmers and their partners access this immediate support.
All ministers recognised that dairy farmers are doing it tough due to increased input costs as a result of the drought. Ministers McKenzie and Furner discussed issues facing the dairy industry and Minister McKenzie outlined the need for supermarkets to ensure that the impact of the drought on Australian dairy farmers is recognised in the price paid for their milk by the processors. Minister McKenzie also outlined measures being taken by the Australian Government to ensure the sustainability and strength of that industry, in particular through a mandatory code of conduct.
Ministers provided updates for each of the assistance measures they are delivering to support farming families and their communities through hardship. They committed to greater sharing of information to further improve coordination and collaboration between the Australian and state and territory governments in delivery of drought assistance and reporting against the National Drought Agreement. This will also assist in ensuring that the NFF’s FarmHub is up to date and available for use by drought-affected businesses and communities.
Ministers agreed to create a working group chaired by the Hon. Shane Stone AC QC, and including the National Farmers’ Federation, to identify opportunities for integrating Commonwealth, State and Territory drought and recovery programs to improve access for affected producers and communities, with a progress report to AGMIN in February 2020.The meeting concluded with a presentation by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) on their national drought policy. This policy supports the objectives of the National Drought Agreement to enhance the long-term preparedness, sustainability, resilience and risk management for farming businesses and communities in order to minimise the impact of drought. Ministers discussed with the President and CEO of the NFF how government and industry can collaborate to build long-term resilience and preparedness to withstand future drought periods whilst also providing immediate relief to those affected right now. Ministers agreed that a new drought committee comprising governments, the NFF and the Hon. Shane Stone AC QC, will meet as part of each AGMIN meeting.