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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11288

Trade

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your letter of 17 September 2018 about Petition EN0678 which relates to lamb prices and drought support to farmers.

I note the concern of the petitioners about the impact of Australian lamb exports and drought on the domestic market. Australian families are facing a number of cost pressures which may limit their ability to pay a higher price for meat at the supermarket. However, I am sure they would appreciate that current red meat prices are very welcome for farmers with livestock to sell, especially for those in the drought-affected eastern states. Higher returns at the farmgate for sheepmeat producers mean that debt is being paid down, bills are being paid off, food is being put on the table and rural and regional communities are being injected with a much needed boost during times of widespread drought.

Export markets are critical to the Australian sheepmeat industry as Australia produces much more lamb and mutton than Australians consume. The domestic market is and will remain very important for our red meat industries. Meat & Livestock Australia is taking steps to ensure that all Australians can enjoy lamb and beef, for example by investing in educating consumers about how to get the most out of every cut of meat they buy.

On his first day in office, the Prime Minister, the Hon. Scott Morrison MP affirmed the government's highest priority is responding to the drought. As the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources,

I am eagerly working with the Prime Minister to support farmers experiencing hardship.

In response to the current drought conditions, the government has already announced $1.8 billion in new assistance, additional funding and improvements to existing support. Our recent announcements reflect what members of our government have heard on the ground in our most drought-affected communities.

The Coalition Government is supporting fanners and rural communities through the drought by funding a broad range of initiatives, which include:

the Farm Household Allowance, which supports farmers and their partners in financial hardship, regardless of the cause

the Rural Financial Counselling Service, which provides free financial counselling to farmers and small related businesses in, or at risk of, financial hardship

the Regional Investment Corporation, which administers the delivery of fam1 business concessional drought and investment loans and national water infrastructure loans

the Drought Communities Programme, which supports communities in drought-affected areas through local infrastructure projects and other drought-relief activities

various taxation measures and concessions, including the Farm Management Deposits Scheme and accelerated depreciation measures

funding the management of weeds and pest animals in drought-affected areas

enhanced weather and climate forecasting services to help prepare for drought

investments in water infrastructure to provide greater water security

support for rural mental health services and community organisations

appointing a National Drought Coordinator, Major General Stephen Day, DSC, AM, to engage across all levels of government, the private sector, philanthropic organisations, communities and farmers, and to facilitate coordinated delivery of drought assistance; and

appointing the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP as Special Envoy on drought to focus on talking to farmers about the human and economic impact of the drought and the effectiveness of relief efforts.

The petitioners can find more information about the range of available assistance measures on my department's website at agriculture.gov.au/assistance.

I will continue to work hard to ensure our agricultural industries are able to thrive, bringing benefits to consumers, rural and regional communities, and the Australian economy at large.

Thank you for bringing the petitioners concerns to my attention.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Mr Littleproud