The Morrison government will invest billions into a forward-thinking Future Drought Fund that will provide 100 million a year to help rural and regional Australia become more prepared and resilient to the impacts of drought.
Announced on July 1, the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said that the Morrison government will invest $3.9 billion, which will grow to $5 billion, in the forward-thinking fund.
Established in legislation in 2019, the Future Drought Fund will provide a range of programs to build drought resilience into the Australian agriculture sector.
“Drought is an enduring feature of the Australian landscape. It has economic, environmental, and social impacts on our farmers, communities, and landscape,” said Littleproud.
Speaking in an interview on 2SM on July 1, Littleproud said: “That’s what the future fund is about, it’s about the future, it’s about understanding that your very next drought starts the very first day after it stops raining.”
The federal government is set to roll out eight Future Drought Fund programs (pdf) costing a total of $89.6 million in July 2020. Among the programs listed by the Department of Agriculture, the fund will provide $20.3 million for a Drought Resilience Research and Adoption program, $20 million to a Farm Business Resilience program, and $15 million to a Natural Resource Management (NRM) Drought Resilience program.
There will also be a further $10 million allotted to Climate Services for Agriculture program, and another $3 million will be given to a Drought Resilience Self-Assessment Tool.
“These programs will give farmers and communities the tools they need to prepare for, manage, and sustain their livelihoods during droughts,” explained Littleproud.
Designed through consultation with farming communities, the programs are created to tackle issues like the restoration and creation of natural resources such as soil, vegetation, and water retention.
They will also grant farmers access to vital research, climate tools, and strategic business management training so they can “prepare for, manage, and sustain their livelihoods during a drought.”
The peak body for Australian farmers the National Farmers Federation (NFF) welcomed Littleproud’s announcement.
In a media release on July 1, NFF President Fiona Simpson said the start of the Future Drought Fund was a milestone day in the nation’s approach to drought policy.
“The NFF and our members have continued to call on governments at all levels to recognise drought as an ever-present challenge, even during seasonally good years,” said Simpson
“The activation of the Future Drought Fund is an important milestone in Australia’s approach to drought,” she said
Agriculture, Simpson explained, is one of the most volatile sectors in the Australian economy, and “for too long, as a country, we have been reactive towards drought.”
This has made Australia unable to get drought preparedness, management, and recovery right as a nation, Simpson revealed.
“It is important that drought policy in Australia is a collaborative effort, with formal input from governments, communities, farmers, and other stakeholders,” she said.
Simpson said that the NFF was “particularly pleased” with the creation of the $20 million national Farm Business Resilience Program.”
“The NFF has been advocating for the roll-out of this sort of program for some time. It will give farmers key tools and insights to manage their financial risks,” Simson said.