Drought preparedness schemes are no substitute for assistance now.

Last month, the Queensland Agriculture Industry Development Minister Mark Furner announced that the Drought Freight Subsidy Assistance scheme would be phased out starting in mid 2020.

The decision was made because state-based drought assistance subsidies are not in line with the national drought plan - an agreement every premier and chief minister signed in December last year.

While the drought is by no means confined to our state borders it is our state Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ task to specifically look out for the needs of our state’s agricultural industries. At this point in time, this means providing as much viable financial assistance as possible to ensure our agricultural industries can survive long enough until the current drought conditions ease. 

The August to October climate outlook, issued by the Bureau of Meteorology’s suggests a drier than average three months is likely for large parts of Australia. Simply put, the drought is going to get worse in many parts before we see an improvement.

Winter rainfall in W.A. means that fodder from that state is likely to be available over the spring and summer period. Certainly, it’s welcome news that there will be fodder available from other states in Australia, but there are serious financial implications to transport feed over 4,000 kms if no government assistance will be provided to subsidise freight costs.

QDO welcomes the Queensland and federal governments commitment to longer term solutions for farmers and agree that farmers need to take a significantly more proactive approach to drought preparedness.

However, just cutting the current freight subsidy scheme without a replacement scheme in place will just put more pressure on farmers, their families and their livestock already struggling to make ends meet.

We don’t simply go from being in drought to business as usual in a matter of weeks or even months. It will take years for our farmers to get back on their feet financially. Both state and federal governments need to work with agricultural service industry groups like QDO to come up with satisfactory schemes to replace the funding that has been lost and to provide incentives for farmers to develop drought preparation plans.

DAF needs to be working with industry now to develop viable funding schemes that will assist in future proofing our agricultural industries. This needs to include funding for bodies such as QDO, incentives funding and low interest loans to help farmers prepare their farmers for drought.

Eric Danzi – QDO Executive Officer