AgForce is urging the State Government to strengthen Queensland’s rural voice on Local Drought Committees – keeping those most affected at the heart of decisions.
The call comes as Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner announces a review of the state’s drought declaration process, which includes looking into the continuation and current structure of LDCs.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said while the organisation supported the review, it was imperative that LDCs could continue to inform on the ground recommendations on which areas should be drought declared.
“The use of LDCs provides locally relevant expertise and support for government decision making, and this makes perfect sense to us,” he said.
“The LDC representatives are geographically based in the regional councils and shires, aligned to council areas – the same areas used for drought declarations.
“The knowledge producers provide on their local environment is extremely valuable, as is involving local organisations, councils, and on the ground intelligence, in supporting fair and equitable decisions for all parties regarding drought declarations and revocations.
“It is incredibly presumptuous for people to assume that someone working out of a city office can make drought declarations based solely on satellite imagery or a CSIRO forecasting.
“Objective scientific data like satellite imagery and forecasts is important, but it simply must be underpinned by local understanding of current and expected agricultural conditions. If not, we risk having decisions made that grossly miscalculate the situations and needs of our farming communities.”
The review, pledged as part of the Queensland Government’s drought reforms, will be conducted by former AgForce CEO Charles Burke, with recommendations to be made to Minister Furner later this year.
Mr Guerin said the function of LDCs could be improved by providing greater clarity and transparency on processes and procedures used, including integrity provisions around membership, as well as expanding their role to enable them to provide an industry ‘early warning’ of drying conditions.
In addition, AgForce would like to see a stronger emphasis on helping primary producers prepare for the next drought, while building on current drought support.
“While the area of Queensland currently drought declared has ebbed to less than 10 per cent of the state, many producers remain affected by dry and drying conditions,” said Mr Guerin.
“We would like to see 'in-event' assistance continue, such as relief for water and electricity charges, and ideally this should be increased on a ‘per enterprise’ basis into the future.
“We would also encourage the government to progress recommendations from the review relating to reforms to fodder tree harvesting provisions, and embed drought-related triggers for increases to the Queensland Department of Education Living Away from Home Allowances Scheme.
“We look forward to engaging with Mr Burke and ensuring primary producers across the state can have their say on how droughts are declared.”
Media Contact: AgForce CEO Michael Guerin 0488 002 092