Aussie farmers need easier access to drought relief: peak body

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-25 11:12:07|Editor: mmm
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CANBERRA, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Australia's peak body representing farmers on Thursday called for an overhaul of the government's drought funding.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) demanded the 60-page application process for drought relief be simplified and for farmers be able to access state and federal assistance through a single digital portal.

"Farmers need to know exactly what assistance is available to prepare, manage through and recover from drought, well before they are in drought," NFF President Fiona Simson told News Corp Australia.

"We need a truly national approach to drought response, a single portal to apply for harmonized drought programs across jurisdictions."

Simson's comments came ahead of Friday's National Drought Summit in Canberra, which will be attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, senior members of government and more than 100 farm leaders.

The agriculture community has expressed anger over the difficulty faced in trying to access the 29,000-Australian-dollar (20,400-U.S.-dollar) emergency relief package they are entitled to under a scheme announced by the government in August.

The NFF has urged Morrison to introduce a national drought policy to address the drought, which experts have said could be the worst in Australia's history.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) on Tuesday advised that any national drought policy must account for climate change.

"While it is difficult to attribute any specific event to climate change, it is clear Australia's climate is changing, with significant consequences for agriculture," ABARES director Steve Hatfield-Dodds and economist Neal Hughes wrote.

"There is still much uncertainty over what climate change will mean for agriculture in the future."

"However, the evidence we do have points to more frequent and more severe droughts, if only because of higher temperatures and evaporation rates."