Programme 1.11 Drought programmes
- increase the resilience and capacity of farmers, farming families and communities to better prepare for and self-manage the impacts of drought, climate variability and reduced water availability.
We were responsible for implementing the Government's reforms to drought programmes. These reforms aim to improve the preparedness and self-reliance of farmers in dealing with a changing climate and other drought-related challenges.
We were also responsible for leading the development of the Government's drought assistance package, which was announced in February 2014. The package supports farm businesses, farm families and rural communities affected by drought.
More information is available on the department's website.
Key performance indicators
|Key performance indicator||2013–14 target||Performance|
|Eligible farmers and small businesses receive sufficient financial resources to meet immediate needs within timeframe specified by the Bilateral Management Arrangement||100% b||N/A||N/A||Met|
|Interim Income Support claims to be processed within 42 days in accordance with the Bilateral Management Arrangement with the Department of Human Services (DHS)||80% b||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payments claims to be processed within 42 days in accordance with the Bilateral Management Arrangement with DHS||80% b||N/A||N/A||Met|
|Effective understanding of stakeholder views on programmes to help producers prepare for and manage drought||Consult stakeholders||Met||Met||-|
|Work with DHS to ensure systems are in place to enable the Farm Household Allowance to be implemented from 1 July 2014 a||Systems in place||Met||-||-|
|Amendments to the Farm Household Support Act 1992 to enable the Farm Household Allowance to be implemented from 1 July 2014 are passed by the Parliament a||Legislation passed by the Parliament||Met||-||-|
|Integrated scientific and economic research–underpinning research, advice, forecast, projects, products and data services meet stakeholder expectations and are delivered within agreed timelines and in line with international research standards||85%||Met||Met||-|
a New performance indicator. b No Exceptional Circumstances declarations were in place in 2013–14, which meant these indicators were not applicable during this period.
National Drought Program Reform
Along with the states and territories, we implemented the commitments under the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Drought Program Reform by 1 July 2014.
Legislation was passed by the Parliament in March 2014 to give effect to the Farm Household Allowance. Work continued to amend the Farm Management Deposits Scheme (see Programme 1.12) to help farmers manage their risks.
In collaboration with AgriFood Skills Australia and the states and territories, we developed a farm business management skill-set, which was published in December 2013. Under the intergovernmental agreement, state and territory governments are responsible for encouraging the delivery and uptake of the new skill-set from 1 July 2014. More information is available at training.gov.au.
We formed a high-level group on rural social support, comprising representatives from the departments of Agriculture, Human Services, Social Services and Health, to enhance the collaboration and coordination of social support services. The enhanced social support services announced as part of the drought assistance package contribute to the Government's obligations under the agreement.
We continued to liaise with the Bureau of Meteorology on improvements to seasonal climate outlooks and how information is made accessible to farmers.
We contacted our stakeholders to discuss the development and implementation of these programmes throughout 2013–14.
A new drought assistance package
In February 2014, the Australian Government announced a $320 million drought assistance package to respond to drought conditions across large areas of eastern Australia. The package included a new income support payment, drought concessional loans, funding for water-related infrastructure and pest animal management, and enhanced social and mental health services.
Given the number of farm businesses affected by dry conditions in Queensland and New South Wales, each state has been allocated $100 million for the provision of drought concessional loans to eligible farm businesses. Applications for the Drought Concessional Loans Scheme in these states opened in June 2014. QRAA (Queensland Rural Assistance Authority) and the New South Wales Rural Assistance Authority are responsible for managing the loan application and assessment processes.
With these arrangements established, the department is now concentrating efforts on settling arrangements with Western Australia and the Northern Territory, with other states to follow.
Scientific and economic research
Supporting National Drought Program Reform
ABARES supported the department's assessment of priority areas under National Drought Program Reform by providing research and briefings on the current state of climatic and agronomic conditions. This included research to help agricultural industries adapt to, and prepare for, the impacts of increased climate variability and to adopt self-reliant approaches to better prepare for climate impacts, as key components of the intergovernmental agreement.
ABARES also maintained and updated key tools and systems, such as The Monitor, an online decision support tool, to enhance ongoing drought policy work.
Developing the drought assistance package
Developing a new drought assistance package to meet a tight implementation timeframe was a key challenge during 2013–14. A number of components required substantial engagement with stakeholders and close cooperation with state agencies responsible for delivering the measures. Government and industry representative groups largely supported and welcomed the drought assistance package.