National Drought Program Reform
In the 2013–14 Budget, the Australian Government announced its contribution to National Drought Program Reform–a $99.4 million investment in a new Farm Household Allowance to support farmers and their partners when they are in hardship.
The new allowance will be available from 1 July 2014 and provide farm families experiencing financial hardship with assistance, without the need for a drought or Exceptional Circumstances declaration. The allowance will provide eligible farmers and their partners with up to three years of fortnightly income support paid at a rate equivalent to Newstart Allowance (or Youth Allowance for those under 22).
In 2008, Australian, state and territory primary industries ministers agreed that drought support based on Exceptional Circumstances programs was no longer appropriate in the face of a variable climate. Ministers agreed that future drought arrangements should help farmers focus on risk management and preparedness.
In the same year, the Australian Government commissioned a national review of drought policy to help inform decisions on how the government can better support farmers. The review included economic, climatic and social assessments. It found that drought conditions in Australia were likely to occur more often and be more severe. It also recommended that drought assistance programs be restructured to help farmers better plan and prepare for drought rather than waiting until they are in crisis to offer assistance.
In 2010, the Australian Government, in partnership with the Western Australian Government initiated a two year pilot of drought reform measures in regions of Western Australia. This was in response to the national review of drought policy and tested a range of programs to inform the design of a new national approach. The pilot was reviewed in 2011 by an independent panel, which confirmed that a move to programs with a focus on risk management and preparedness was appropriate.
A summary of previous drought assistance arrangements can found at our History of Drought Assistance page.
Informed by these reviews, in October 2012 the Australian, state and territory primary industries ministers agreed to the framework for a new package to better support farmers and their families prepare for future challenges. The focus is on helping farmers to prepare for and manage business risks including drought. The Australian, state and territory primary industries ministers have agreed that the new package will support farmers without the need for a drought or Exceptional Circumstances declaration.
On Friday 3 May 2013, at the meeting of the Standing Council on Primary Industries, the Australian, state and Northern Territory primary industries ministers signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Drought Program Reform
The agreement outlines the key roles and responsibilities for each government in implementing the new national drought package from 1 July 2014. The agreement also includes a framework to guide government decisions to increase or introduce support when conditions are declining, without conflicting with the objectives of reform.
Implementation of the package
The package will be implemented from 1 July 2014. Parts of the package, including the development of legislation needed for the Farm Household Allowance, will continue to be developed until this time.
Until the new programs are implemented the following measures remain available to farm families:
- the Australian Government’s Transitional Farm Family Payment
- the Farm Management Deposits Scheme
- the Rural Financial Counselling Service
In addition if an area is EC-declared before 30 June 2014, Exceptional Circumstances assistance through the EC Relief Payment would be available.
14 May 2013