Drought-proof cash for farm business plans

Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Farmers’ financial skills and drought research will receive a boost through a $3.9 billion fund designed to prepare Australia for future crippling dry spells.

Almost $90 million from the first annual $100 million Future Drought Fund payout has been allocated across a range of drought-proofing programs.

A $20 million program will help farmers develop and improve detailed business plans.

Agriculture David Littleproud says the scheme was designed to do more than put together a budget.

“This is about risk management tools, about understanding how you can hedge your products in international markets,” he told ABC television on Wednesday.

Farmers will get improved climate data to guide decision-making through a $10 million boost for digital information services.

National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson welcomed the focus on managing financial and climatic risks.

“As a nation, we have not yet got drought preparation, management and recovery right but today represents a landmark step towards significant improvement,” she said on Wednesday.

More than $20 million will be spent on drought research while $15 million will be funnelled towards natural resource management.

Alliances of local councils will be able to share in $10 million to develop regional drought plans.

“These programs will give farmers and communities the tools they need to prepare for, manage and sustain their livelihoods during droughts,” Mr Littleproud said.

Labor has previously criticised the fund for spending just $100 million a year from 2020 despite being first announced at the height of the drought in 2018.

The Future Drought Fund is expected to rise from an initial $3.9 billion to $5 billion in 2028/29.

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