Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Overhaul farming policy for drought, says Australia's Productivity Commission

The Australian (Australia): Rural policy faces its biggest shake-up in years, after the Productivity Commission attacked drought-relief payments as encouraging poor farming practices. The Government's key economic advisory agency will release a report today proposing major changes to the Government's Exceptional Circumstances drought-relief system, including a shift from unlimited drought support payments to grants to help farmers improve their ability to withstand future droughts.

The report will also say the existing EC system is dividing communities because eligibility for assistance is given according to arbitrary lines on a map indicating which areas are drought-declared. The release of the report follows news in The Australian yesterday that the National Farmers Federation had scrapped its long-term support for the EC system.

In its submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into drought assistance, the NFF called for adaptation grants for successful farmers and HECS-style loans to help others build their businesses to the point where they can afford to invest in adaptation. The NFF also called for time-limited income support for struggling producers while they considered whether to apply for exit grants to leave the land.

The Productivity Commission's report is the last of three reports commissioned by the Rudd Government when it took office late last year. A Bureau of Meteorology report released earlier this year warned of more frequent droughts because of climate change, while an expert panel investigating the social effects of drought last week called for an end to no-strings assistance…..

Parched fields outside Benambra, Australia, shot by Fir0002 , Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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