Western Australia Minister for Agriculture and Food Terry Redman
Redman Wins Drought Reform Pilot For WA
Victor P Taffa
Western Australia will join with the Federal Government to trial a new approach to drought assistance in a bid to build a more secure future for the agriculture industry.
WA Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman and Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke today announced a pilot of reform measures aimed at preparing farm businesses and rural communities for the future challenges.
“WA farmers have not been well served by the Exceptional Circumstances arrangements in the past.” Mr. Redman said.
“I requested in June 2009 that a drought reform trial be conducted in Western Australia and have been working consistently since with Mr. Burke. This is a step in the right direction as the national drought reform process continues.”
“This is an opportunity for West Australian farmers to develop new skills and for farming communities to plan for their future.” Mr. Redman said.
“The crux of these measures is about preparation and building resilient businesses, instead of waiting for a crisis and reacting after the fact. We need to move to a mind-set of being proactive, rather than reactive when it comes to tough times in agriculture.” Mr. Redman said.
The pilot has three broad aims; to strengthen farm businesses, sustain farming families and build resilient rural communities.
It consists of seven major components:
- Farm Planning: assistance for farmers to undertake a program of training to enhance their skills in business planning;
- Building Farm Businesses: grants of up to $60,000 to help farmers better manage and prepare for future challenges;
- Farm Family Support: income support to help families meet basic household needs;
- Stronger Rural Communities: grants of up to $300,000 for eligible local groups experiencing significant hardship due to an agricultural downturn to build the resilience of their rural community and assist them to manage future hardship;
- Farm Social Support: a better co-ordinated social support network to meet mental health, counselling and social needs of farming families and rural communities;
- Farm Exit Support: grants of up to $170,000 to support farmers who decide to sell their farm, including retraining and relocation expenses;
- Beyond Farming: a program for farmers who want to know more about opportunities that arise when they sell up or retire.
The WA Government will fund and administer the Farm Planning component of the trial and will administer the Building Farm Businesses component.
The pilot region has been selected based on previous recipients of Exceptional Circumstances (EC) and extends from Karratha to Esperance.
Mr. Redman emphasised this was a genuine pilot starting on July 1, 2010 and ending June 30, 2011, although Building Farm Business grants will be spread over four years.
“I encourage farmers to get involved in the pilot and give feedback on the usefulness of its measures. This program will assist businesses and communities to respond and adapt to the tough financial times they are experiencing right now, as well as plan for the future.” Mr. Redman said.
“This is part of the State Government’s approach to ensuring that maintaining productivity and profitability is at the forefront of government policy, even during difficult times.”
“Under the agreement the Western Australian Government will not be able to apply for an EC declaration during the period July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.”
“It is a good time to pilot these new measures while no area of WA is drought-declared and farmers can use this opportunity to prepare for tough times that may arise in the future.” Mr. Redman said.
“The pilot is a chance for West Australian farmers and their families to access more generous support through training and grants, and social welfare safety net sooner, rather than waiting for the slow, bureaucratic EC application process.”
“I am also pleased that the Federal Government listened to the WA Government’s requests to allow for a more generous assets test for WA farmers as part of the pilot.” Mr. Redman said.