The Land

Support for farmers

PREPARATION IS KEY: Farmers must prepare their businesses for future climate uncertainty in order to create more resilient businesses. The Farm Business Resilience Program has been designed for this purpose. Photo: Supplied.

This is branded content for the Department of Primary Industries

The Department of Primary Industries, in conjunction with the Australian Government's Future Drought Fund, has opened applications for the next Farm Business Resilience Program's Professional Business Coaching, starting in September this year.

The Farm Business Resilience Program seeks to arm farm owners and operators with the tools they need to overcome adversities, specifically drought, and build resilience in their businesses.

It uses a range of resources to strengthen farming businesses, including business coaching, networking events, workshops and a suite of business tools and resources that are available online, via Drought Hub.

Participants are paired with a coach who provides one on one support to help farmers develop risk management tools to safeguard their businesses through challenging economic and environmental times.

And with all that is happening in the world, including a pandemic and climate change, it's more important than ever to solidify the foundations of farming businesses to withstand such challenges.

"Agriculture is one of the most climate vulnerable industries due to its reliance on suitable temperature ranges and rainfall for food and fibre production," said Pip Job, director of engagement at the Department of Primary Industries.

"Climatic predictions clearly state an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts, natural disasters and biosecurity incursions and threats. Recovery periods between these events will become shorter and the likelihood of successive events in a short duration is highly probable."

The Farm Business Resilience Program pilot was first announced in June 2021, backed by the support of the Commonwealth, and had over 140 farm businesses participate in the program.

It was developed to help farmers hone their skills in bookkeeping and business planning, while also giving them the tools to plan ahead for unfavourable circumstances.

"Businesses who identify and plan for the potential risks they may face, will be better prepared to face adversity, make the decisions they need to, and will set themselves up to bounce back more swiftly," said Ms Job.

"Improving financial and insurance literacy, decision making, risk management, succession planning and business strategy (economic, social and environmental) and undertaking business continuity planning will support businesses in preparing for and managing through adverse events."

Australian Farmers are renowned for their agility in tough conditions, pivoting and overcoming obstacles that harsh weather conditions throw their way. But the effects of climate change are becoming impossible to ignore, increasing the frequency and unpredictability of severe weather events. Preparation is key to survival and success.

Katie and Lach Donald from Gundagai recognised this, and signed up for last year's intake.

A success story

The Donald's have recently downsized their farming operation from 1700 acres with 500 acres of irrigation, down to 350 acres with no irrigation. Their farm, set on the Murrumbidgee River, predominantly produces hay.

"We signed up for the program because we saw a really good opportunity to connect with others. But also to get our book work in order, and our ways of communicating," said Katie.

The Donald's learnt many valuable lessons throughout the program but some stand out.

"We learnt different management styles for our bookkeeping, our documentation and ways of keeping our records. We also learnt better ways of communicating between ourselves and keeping track of what's going on, day to day on the farm.

"We were able to get our kids involved in the course as well, and give them stakeholder positions in it, ensuring they have a voice. That was invaluable for us," said Katie.

The Donald's heard about the course from a local woman in their farming community, and it's a good thing they did because there were obvious positive impacts on the business as a direct outcome of their participation.

"The positive impacts are ongoing. I'm a lot more organised in the bookwork. Lach himself is documenting more of what he's doing on a day to day basis, which then gives him the ability at the end of the week to look back and say 'I actually did achieve something'.

"Our lines of communication are better and we both have a better understanding of what's going on," said Katie.

"It's put us on the same page, and helped us to set clear long term goals," said Lach.

Participants of the program are matched with a one on one business coach, to guide them through the course, provide expert insight and tailored support.

"We were really lucky with our coach, they matched us well with her. A lot of her values aligned with how we are as people and she could relate back to us and our farming. She would keep me on target and she kept us motivated. It was awesome, we feel really lucky," said Katie.

Would the Donald's recommend the Farm Business Resilience Program to other farm businesses? Katie's answer: "Definitely."

"You're actually meeting people who aren't your neighbours, and it gives you more confidence to speak openly and freely. That's how everyone in our group felt."

The next round of applications closes in August and spaces are filling quickly.

The eligibility requirements are simple. Eligible farm businesses must be located in New South Wales and operate as a primary production business in the agriculture, horticulture, pastoral, apiculture or aquaculture industries. They must also hold an ABN, be registered for GST and commercially viable. For more details visit droughthub.nsw.gov.au/programs/farm-business-resilience-program.

This is branded content for the Department of Primary Industries