What are our options through this drought?

OPINION: Action needed now, not post election


Editorial
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It's clear that cash handouts, subsides and low interest loans have had limited success in this drought. So what then are the other options?

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AMID the political jostling about who has the best drought policy, there's a key aspect being forgotten: What can be done right now to help farmers and associated businesses?

On the ground, the situation is all about how to pay that next bill, or feed stock, or how much to spend on being ready to sow if it does rain, and what steps in the farm plan to postpone?

And then there are the longer term issues, such as how will we restock, how long can we keep making those repayments, do I need to rethink my farm business structure?

There are also farmers out there questioning what else they might be able to do.

Can they get a job off farm, and what would they do?

Will any of their skills transfer into another profession, and do they have the confidence to go down that path?

Yet, the discussion in Canberra is very removed from these day-to-day challenges. We need better co-ordination between federal and state policy.

If the major parties were serious about doing more now (instead of waiting for the election), they would agree on an intergovernmental strategy that also helps the states deliver urgently needed on-the-ground support.

We also can't have an effective drought policy at any level without knowing what we want our rural communities to look like - there's no discussion taking place in Canberra around this and how it relates to drought and rural policy.

It's clear neither the Coalition or Labor want to spend any more on farmers than they feel is necessary to win the election, and at the moment it's only promises.

At the NSW Farmers pre-election forum at Wingham recently, The Land asked the (state political) panel what they could do right now to help farmers.

There was a stone-cold silence until, eventually, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MLC Robert Borsak suggested tax concessions - something farmers have also suggested.

So what are we working towards here in terms of our farm businesses and rural communities?

Is the figure of a $100m drought promise even relevant if we're not clear on what we're working towards?

What do you want our rural communities to look and function like? And what do you think needs to happen now to make sure people get the right support?

  • Send your ideas on what you would like to see in drought and rural policy to letters@theland.com.au
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