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Courtney Bryant
Drought Policy Branch
Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment
Via: ua.vog.erutlucirga@ycilopthguord

Re: GrainGrowers’ response to Shared responsibilities in drought support

Dear Ms Bryant

GrainGrowers is a voice for Australian grain farmers with grower members across Australia. We work to build a more sustainable and profitable grains industry for the benefit of Australian grain farmers. GrainGrowers welcomes this opportunity to provide feedback on the concept of shared responsibilities in drought support to the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE).

Australian farmers operate in one of the riskiest environments in the world. They have to cope with numerous sources of risk including weather uncertainty, variable market process, and institutional changes in their business management1. GrainGrowers believes that farmers are in the best position to assess the risks they face and take proactive steps to adopt risk management strategies that consider their indiviudal needs and circumstances. Governments have a responsibility to provide policy certainty along with adequate funding for assistance programs while limiting the barriers that impede a business’ ability to adopt and implement their own preparedness and resilience measures.

The grains sector is a powerhouse of regional Australia with 23,000 farm businesses growing on average 43.6 million tonnes of grains, oilseeds and pulses each year for domestic and global customers. The farm-gate value of Australian grain production is $15 billion, contributing 21% of the value of Australian agriculture. The grains sector is a major contributor to the Australian economy, directly employing over 100,000 people. The impact of drought is different across geography, enterprise type and structure with the GRDC estimating the losses to grains industry being approximately $2.5billion in 2018/19 and $7.2billion in 2019/20.


The document provided by DAWE outlines a summary of the consultations to date noting the ‘aim’ is to ‘help build self-reliance not dependence’. GrainGrowers’ believes this desired outcome does not go far enough to quantify the outcome. Rather, the aim of drought policy should be to reduce the environmental, human, and economic costs of managing climate risks and drought rather than simply reducing dependence.

The summary document outlines the role for effective evaluation and ongoing review of policies. The foundation principle of continuous improvement by all (governments, industry, and producers) is necessary. GrainGrowers believes successful drought policy should:

  • Empower growers to own their preparedness, management, and recovery of drought
  • Incentivise and foster proactive best management practices
  • Support continuous improvement efforts
  • Be bipartisan, fostering policy certainty with adequate and secure funding
  • Ensure measures are available to growers when they need them to manage their own unique circumstances
  • Industry is involved in the ongoing evaluation and informed of the outcomes.

GrainGrowers’ understands the concept of shared responsibility to mean:
Involving Governments (all levels), primary producers, industry groups, financial sector, and community. It is the expectation on governments that they provide policy certainty with bipartisanship and adequate, secure funding of assistance programs. Producers after completing eligible activities should be assured that they will have access to the necessary support.

GrainGrowers’ believes that any efforts to introduce the principle of ‘share responsibility’ or ‘mutual obligation’ as it has previously been referred, should be done with the acknowledgement that a transition period is required along with governments providing clarity of the measures that will be available to growers across the different phases of drought. Such a transition period should consider the length it takes to go through one or more cycles (seven to ten years) to ensure growers have the necessary time to live through a phase and make the approrpoate changes based on their previous experiences. The same can be said for all others who have those responsibilities.

Finally, when observing the drought policy landscape and the presence of the Future Drought Fund it is welcomed news to see this matter being discussed while much of Australia is not in drought. However, GrainGrowers’ believes that it should be acknowledged that many growers are currently focusing on recovery rather than being able to consider preparedness and resilience building.

Government has a role to play in undertaking and leading the following to ensure this valuable time of reflection and continuous improvement is not squandered:

  1. Stocktake and analysis of farming resilience:
    1. Establishing a framework to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of drought programs during this event compared to previous.
    2. Analysis of each sector / commodity and their response and adapting to the recent and ongoing drought event.
    3. Analysis of primary producer skills and attitudes towards drought preparedness.
    4. Assessment of drought impacts on natural capital impacts (including soil health); for example, establishing a baseline for soil carbon
    5. Assessment of economic impacts caused by drought
  2. Benchmarking
    1. Establishment of best practice benchmarking and case studies
    2. Understanding the impact of poor practice through benchmarking
  3. Identifying incentives
    1. Risk management incentives
    2. Natural capital incentives
    3. Financial incentives.

As outlined, we strongly support resources being allocated towards ensuring drought policy is a constant fixture of the landscape with ongoing funding. GrainGrowers’ calls for the government to ensure that growers are fully aware of what support measures will be there come the next drought along with associated eligibility criteria and how shared responsibilities measures would impact these. Along with our response to this call for feedback we have attached GrainGrowers’ drought policy.

Our drought policy outlines the actions governments should take now to respond to the pressures of drought along with empowering growers to manage their risk. We have also taken the liberty in providing some recent submissions that may be of interest. Should you require any further information, please contact GrainGrowers Policy Manager for Rural Affairs, Amelia Shaw on (02) 9286 2000 or ua.moc.sreworgniarg@wahs.ailema.

Yours sincerely,

David McKeon
Chief Executive Office