From Disaster Response to Risk Management: Australias National Drought Policy


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Climate change and increasing population are not expected to make droughts any easier in the U. So there is no time to lose in creating a national drought policy. That means states, federal agencies, tribal governments, and municipalities pouring information into one place. Data collected and monitored will include soil moisture, rainfall, snow pack, stream flows, and groundwater levels. Two bills are pending in the House and Senate to authorize funding for the program for the next several years.

The GSA meeting is not the first time Botterill and Wilhite have addressed this subject side-by-side. Materials provided by Geological Society of America. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Science News.

Drought assistance

ScienceDaily, 15 September Geological Society of America. Drought As The 'New Normal'. Retrieved September 20, from www. A new study sheds light on how these droughts evolve in space and time, bringing vital Below are relevant articles that may interest you. It also found that most farmers are in fact sufficiently self-reliant to manage climate variability.

Its removal was brought about by concerns that temporary relief during droughts was not appropriate and that drought declarations were being made either ad-hoc or too quickly. The Commonwealth was also concerned with the high cost of administering drought relief and the way that some drought policies discriminated against farm managers who did prepare for dry times [10].

Additionally, concerns were also voiced about funds possibly being misused for political purposes. The Task Force noted similar concerns including that many drought relief schemes were more focused on obtaining assistance and less about mitigating and living with drought. The Task Force concluded that it was not possible to develop an objective, scientific, and universally accepted definition of drought and rejected the notion of being able to identify the severity of a drought.

Dry argument: Australia's drought policy dilemma - ABC Rural - ABC News

It concluded that: Any distinction between lesser and extreme droughts in this context would be completely arbitrary and inappropriate. McInnes et al. In contrast to the Task Force's view that there should be no distinction between different degrees of drought, the Committee opted instead to make a distinction on the degrees of drought severity on the basis of circumstances that it could reasonably be planned for, and exceptional circumstances that no amount of planning could mitigate.

The concept was predicated on the distinction between normal and severe drought conditions. Due to there being no objective definition of drought, the NDP incorporated criteria for severe drought which categorised it as being exceptional, based on meteorological and economic factors. For a drought to meet these criteria, it must meet the following conditions:.

The RAS developed out of the Rural Reconstruction Scheme which was introduced in the s to assist farmers to either improve their farms, provide short term assistance to maintain the farm, or to leave the farm. The RAS was subject to review in with a greater emphasis on sustainability and management skills. This declaration can include a declaration of Exceptional Circumstances if required, which in turn triggers a range of assistance to those affected, which can include retrospective support.

However, a significant change occurred in drought policy regarding declarations, and many other aspects of drought, in with the introduction of the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Drought Program Reform IGA. There's no doubt that in the past there has been a lot of concern about the former Exceptional Circumstances model Clearly that system was out of date and unfair. The principles set out the case for reform of drought policy:. Council reconfirmed the principles for drought policy reform that would enable farmers to move from crisis management to risk management and preparedness.

The principles are:. The NSW Farmers President said that while they welcomed the concept of preparedness, the process of reform was taking too long and having a direct impact on farmers across the state:. We welcome preparedness and we welcome the concept of that Concerning specific drought assistance arrangements, a lack of clear and consistent commitment from all levels of government has been witnessed since the dismantling of the Exceptional Circumstances framework without a suitable replacement.

This has disappointingly led to worse outcomes, with government at all levels not committing adequately to funding preparedness and then subsequently responding ad-hoc to drought events, rather than through a transparent and consistent framework.

The NFF believes it is important that the governments provide drought assistance to businesses in a consistent, structured manner that places sufficient effort on preparedness, in-event support and recovery. The vegetable growers of Australia are far more likely to have their livelihoods injured by prolonged drought than a meteorite strike, but under the NDRRA, they are protected against the latter and not the former. The Federation proposed that drought assistance requires a bespoke strategy that recognises the increased frequency and longevity of drought events:.

From Disaster Response to Risk Management: Australia's National Drought Policy

We certainly want to see a natural disaster mechanism and we want to see a specific drought mechanism. We do not want to see it bundled in with natural disasters. We have a real fear that if it is bundled in with natural disasters any drought relief may simply go to the biggest cause in the biggest area and not actually enable farmers to cope with something that is occurring on a more frequent basis.

We would like to see consideration given to what that drought support would look like. Many of these purport to assist in long-term mitigation strategies to better prepare farmers for the impact of drought. The state programs include:. Farm Finance Concessional Loan Scheme FFCLS — A Federal Government scheme that aims to assist farm businesses that are experiencing debt servicing difficulties but are considered commercially viable in the longer term, by providing loans to undertake productivity enhancement activities. Drought Concessional Loans Scheme DCLS — A Federal Government scheme that aims to assist farm businesses recover from an existing drought and prepare for future droughts and return to viability in the longer term.

As of January , the fund had only received eight applications and had only approved one. These reasons included the record WA grain harvest in which prevented many previously eligible farm businesses from meeting the criteria for either fund; farm businesses being unable or unwilling to take on more debt; and that the BoM methodology does not take WA's Mediterranean climate into account:. Maybe I should go back and explain why the EC did not work, because we are actually seeing the present circumstances not working for much the same sort of reasons and that is that, especially in the south-east land division, we have very much a Mediterranean climate where we depend on rain falling in a fairly concise time One of the problems we have with the present system is that the rainfall outside that time is recognised.


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Therefore, people who are really deficient of rain in that growing period have been put out of, or culled out of, the drought section because they actually—especially last year—got rain during harvest and same with the year before. Although some of that rain in the summer can be useful if it falls in late summer, but if it falls around about harvest time it is virtually no use even with the amount of spraying and whatever that goes on these days.

The federal government currently provides a number of assistance measures including:. In December the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon.

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This will allow farmers to deduct amounts for capital expenditure on water facilities, horticultural plants, fodder storage assets and fencing assets. The NFF suggested that the system needs to be 'reworked', commenting that a more structural approach should be taken:. I would like to see it reworked. I think it can be sporadic; it is hard to compare event with event; often it can be fuelled by media. It is [a] horrible topic to talk about, but it can be fuelled by media, who may overindex in a particular geographic area, and the TV may drive the outcome. We think it needs more structure and more clarity of purpose Last year the Productivity Commission referred to government disaster relief responses as 'ad hoc and emotionally and politically charged'.

An independently managed Commonwealth fund would ensure that when rural industries were at their most vulnerable they were not left exposed to the political motives of state or local governments. This is exemplified by the current lack of coverage for South Australia in the Drought Concessional Loans Scheme in which the state and federal governments are blaming each other for applications not being opened. This situation is unacceptable considering the federal Treasurer has acknowledged that drought relief is a complete natural disaster and the Minister for Agriculture believes drought is an unmanageable crisis.

Some of these businesses, because they have been so smashed, are deemed to be non-viable so they're deemed to not be able to service the loan or pay it back in future, he said. Mr Finlay said it was simply not possible for many farmers to take on a concessional loan which must be paid back in five years and said the Government needed to extend all loan periods to 15 years. He said there needed to be greater cooperation between Government lending authorities and commercial banks to streamline the lending process and a relaxation in loan eligibility criteria.

In these remote communities the actual council, the local government authority, is the major employer and a lot of businesses rely on that and a lot of people in that community rely on that for income, Mr Finlay said. So to actually put money into these communities around infrastructure projects, we strongly support that.

The NFF highlighted the importance of technology to improve the quality of data to inform insurance risks and eventual premium calculations:. We have—again, I will not name names—some very excellent insurers who are working with farmers in the long term and we have others who may treat them simply like a city based insurance package, which does not really work. The National Farmers' Federation as an entity must develop the top two or three ag insurance companies in Australia and work collaboratively to identify and alleviate the gaps, the unknowns and the risks.


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However, having said that, technology is paramount. Often drought and flood are the greatest insurance risks. If we can identify, particularly around the drought areas, things that we are doing to mitigate the risk as a farmer collective in given geographic areas, we believe that we can get a better insurance bundle from a specific company.

There is also currently a large gap in the market for agricultural producers to insure themselves against production risk, and that gap includes coverage for drought and extreme rainfall. I will step into the next category that has affected us and that is flood. We have lived on a flood plain all our life.

Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation

Our farming practices, usually high-intensity vegetable-farming enterprises, end up on flood plains. So, for a start, insurers do not want to look at you because you are on a flood plain. But, in saying that, even if there were an insurance policy that would cover you, the cost of premiums would outweigh whatever we would get out of it. Whatever we have seen over the past with insurance claims, there seems to be a loophole somewhere. As discussed above, the NFF suggested that improvements in the quality of data can assist in more targeted mitigation, as well as improving outcomes in insurance packages.

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From Disaster Response to Risk Management: Australias National Drought Policy From Disaster Response to Risk Management: Australias National Drought Policy
From Disaster Response to Risk Management: Australias National Drought Policy From Disaster Response to Risk Management: Australias National Drought Policy
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