HUNTER MP Joel Fitzgibbon has called for more support to assist the region’s men and women of the land.
With dams drying up and feed almost scarce, both the Lower and Upper Hunter are experiencing extremely harsh conditions.
And, the word “drought” is being bandied about by all sectors of the community.
“Farmers are among our most highly-respected Australians; right up there with our emergency services personnel,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“They work long and hard hours to produce the food we eat, often in difficult circumstances including the challenges of a highly variable climate.
“One of those [challenges] is drought.
“Once a rare event over long cycles, it now appears almost ever-present.
“It’s one of the realities of climate change.
“But, forget the argument about what’s causing it, our climate is becoming more radical and we need to do everything we can to ensure we are not making the situation worse.
“Further, we must do more to adapt to the reality that drought is, and will remain, a regular phenomenon.
“In addition to embracing economy-wide mitigation policies, we need a comprehensive land management program involving all levels of government.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said success would require four key elements.
“One, assist farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the farm level and to reduce energy costs,” he explained.
“Two, the embrace of new farming methods, which allow us to produce more food in harsher conditions and with fewer natural resources.
“This will also make farm production more sustainable and make the business more resilient in the face of drought.
“While change is progressing slowly, we must accelerate the adoption of smarter farming methods.
“Three, ensure our limited soil and water resources are directed to the farming activities, which produce the greatest economic return for both our farmers and the nation.
“And, lastly, there must be a government-funded safety net and tax incentives for drought proofing.
“Both of these are already reasonably well done but can always be improved.
“Despite all of our modern knowledge and technology, it is not possible for our farmers to adequately plan for the harshest and most prolonged droughts.
“There is merit in a role for government in ensuring our food production capacity is maintained.
“There’s no one response to drought and the current plight of so many of our farmers.
“It is all the more reason we need to quickly restart the policy development process.”