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$519.1m Investment Announced For Future Drought Fund

The Federal Government has announced that it will rewrite the Future Drought Fund, investing $519.1 million to help farmers and regional communities prepare for the next drought and build climate resilience.

The announcement will officially be made at Beef2024 in Rockhampton by Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese MP, with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Murray Watt.

“It’s vital that we support Australian farmers and producers to be prepared for more severe weather impacts,” said Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese MP in a media release on Tuesday, 7 May 2024.

“By doing the work now our rural and regional communities are not just reacting to events as they unfold, but will have considered plans to make them more resilient to climate change.”

Labor has restructured the Fund and its targets to get better results for farming families and communities. This change comes as a response to a 2023 Productivity Commission report that recommended the Future Drought Fund shift its focus from short-term drought resilience projects to those targeting the effects of climate change and promising “lasting public benefits”. It is also in response to last year’s National Drought Forum and has been through consultation with stakeholders.

The FDF was created in 2019 by the then Coalition government amid drought conditions. However, according to the current Labor government, it did not acknowledge climate change as a driver of longer and more severe droughts.

The Fund includes programs like the $235 million invested to extend the Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs, the Future Drought Fund Communities program and the next phase of the Regional Drought Resilience Planning Program.

There is also $137.4 million earmarked to extend and improve the existing Farm Business Resilience and Climate Services for Agriculture programs, and the new Scaling Success Program. The Farm Business Resilience program has already helped thousands of farmers with business planning, coaching, and financial literacy training. Plus a further $120.3 million for programs that trial innovative solutions to build long-term resilience to drought and climate risks.

According to a media release from Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese MP, and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Federal Minister for Emergency Management, Senator Murray Watt, the Fund will provide:

  • Better tools for farmers to help mitigate the impact of drought on their farms.
  • Strategies for local communities to prepare for and manage risks through drought.
  • Increased investment in the existing network of drought hubs.

Meanwhile, the CSIRO is predicting that Australia’s time in drought will increase over the coming years, with days becoming hotter and more frequent.

Senator Watt said very dry conditions were already being experienced in Western Australia and some parts of Tasmania.

“Every morning when farmers around the country wake up, put their boots on and go to work, they are one day closer to the next drought,” he said.

“I’ve seen firsthand the great work under the Future Drought Fund, like trialling new, drought-resistant livestock feed and connecting farmers with the latest scientific advice on reducing drought impacts.”

The Productivity Commission report found the FDF had underspent its $100m annual budget every year since it was set up, with $65m in taxpayer funds allocated in 2020-21, $72m in 2021-22 and $92m in 2022-23.

The rewritten FDF funding will be included in next week’s Federal Budget. Future Drought Fund programs will start to become available from 1 July 2024.

Sources: Joint media release: $519 million boost to help farmers mitigate impacts of drought, FarmOnline (Paywall)

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