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Climatic and seasonal variability is an ongoing challenge for Australian farmers and part of their operating environment. Agriculture experiences the most volatility in the output of all industry sectors in Australia and our agricultural production is amongst the most variable in the OECD.

Our primary producers manage this variability with little financial assistance from governments. In recent years, support has stabilised with less than 1.5 pc of farm gate income being derived from government assistance programs, the second-lowest level in the OECD. 

Australian farmers do take the primary responsibility for managing their climate risks, but they need government policies that facilitate and support their efforts to do so.

AgForce continues to engage with state and federal governments regarding policies surrounding natural disasters and drought.

Drought Policy Position
(Endorsed November 2016)

The AgForce Queensland Farmers Board has endorsed the Agricultural Business Cycle approach to drought policy and supports further advocacy with external stakeholders towards the broader adoption of the approach at a state and national level.

The Agricultural Business Cycle is a new approach to drought policy which aims to move industry from responding in crisis to empowering producers to better manage climate risks. This reformed approach embeds the following principles:

  1. Empowering producers: they take ownership and decide themselves what phase of the cycle they are in and in selecting from an array of public and private programs that ensure the social, financial and environmental needs of their business and family are met.
  2. Mutual obligation from both producers and government: after completing identified eligibility activities, producers can be assured of access to necessary future support. Governments take responsibility to provide bipartisan, certain policy and adequate, secure funding of preparedness and in-event assistance programs. Both groups share leadership to take a credible and united commitment to the policy.
  3. Collaboration, science-based approach: to be delivered effectively this new approach requires contributors with social, financial and environmental expertise plus monitoring and scientific enquiry, initiated by producers, to fill gaps in our knowledge and understanding.
  4. Continuous improvement mindset: continuously building on past experiences, producers are responsive, improving on-farm capacity over time to manage drought, and supported by robust monitoring and review of the various programs facilitating this improvement.
  5. Progressive introduction necessary: producers have invested based on current policies and will have a range of climate and financial circumstances so a significant transition period is required in moving to any new approach.

Figure 1: Agribusiness Cycle approach. Copyright AgForce

Australian agriculture operates in a highly variable business environment with dry periods a recurring feature. To date, drought policy has seen frequent reviews, uncertain assistance programs and a focus on managing crises, not encouraging efforts to prepare and be self-reliant. Australia needs an enduring drought policy.

Past approaches to drought policy in Australia have existed in a state of constant change, review and reform. Without a robust and objective review of outcomes, there is anecdotal evidence that even the current approach and suite of measures is not effective in addressing root causes and encouraging efforts to prepare and be self-reliant.

Primary producers need a change from the current, changeable, crisis-response policy approach to one with greater certainty and better outcomes for all stakeholder dealing with drought. The Agriculture Business Cycle addresses the agricultural business across all its phases – 'Normal', 'Drying', 'Dry' and 'Recovery' by ensuring relevant and useful programs are available when they matter most.

Other relevant information

AgForce continues to advocate for effective drought assistance to be delivered within the current policy settings and for improvements to be made to existing programs.


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