Government puts $500m on the table to combat drought, but farmers say it’s a case of give and take

Government puts $500m on the table to combat drought, but farmers say it’s a case of give and take

It took 18 “frustrating” months for grazier Michael Doering’s Future Drought Fund grant application to be approved, but he said it was worth the wait to safeguard his business.

Chasing more affordable and sustainable country for his cattle, he moved from a property in South Australia to Coolah, New South Wales.

“It was all part of setting ourselves up for the future and being more sustainable so next drought we will survive better,” Mr Doering said.

The grazier used his grant from the first round of funding to seek legal advice regarding his succession planning.

Mr Doering said accessing the funds was a lengthy process.(ABC Capricornia: Scout Wallen)

On Tuesday Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed $519.1m in funding would be put aside for the fund in next week’s federal budget.

The fund aims to help farmers and regional communities improve their drought resilience.

Mr Doering said the additional funding would help people, but other government-controlled costs, such as the increasing tax on fuel, were hurting farmers more.

“[The Prime Minister] takes in one hand but then he says he can give you something else,” he said.

“I certainly hope that [the funding] is going to help people, but I just think he is out trying to catch votes.”

Anthony Albanese made the announcement at Beef 2024 in Rockhampton.(ABC Capricornia: Scout Wallen)

‘A little hard to access’

Mr Albanese announced the investment at Beef 2024 in Rockhampton, the biggest beef industry event in the southern hemisphere.

“There will be more extreme weather events and they will be more intense,” Mr Albanese said.

“We need to, wherever possible, invest in advance to build resilience to work with the farming sector to make sure that every dollar today can save not just five or six dollars down the track, but also minimise the grief that farmers feel when they go through a drought.”

Mr Doering said that although the fund was important, the process was frustrating.

“It took us 18 months to get approval drought relief funding, so it was a long, dragged-out process which was very frustrating,” he said.

Shane McCarthy says he wants to see more details about the plan.(triple j Hack: Angel Parsons)

AgForce vice chairperson Shane McCarthy welcomed the funding but said the devil was “in the detail”.

“These sort of programs, sometimes they’re a little hard to access, and we want to make sure that all the funding gets onto the ground for producers, and it’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all program,” he said.

“What works in the northern part of Australia may not work in the southern part of Australia.”

How will the fund work?

The investment will be spent over eight years, during which time a second phase of the fund will be delivered.

Agricultural Minister Murray Watt said governments had previously had a “chaotic, urgent” response to the already unfolding drought disasters instead of preparing for and minimising their impacts.

“Every day that a farmer wakes up is a day closer to drought and, unfortunately, we’re already seeing drought happen in Western Australia, Tasmania and other parts of the country,” he said.

Mr Watt said the fund had contributed to the development of more resilient feed stocks, improved communication of climate science with farmers and improved social resilience in communities affected by drought.

The money will be available from 1 July 2024.

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