By Growcom CEO David Thomson

The Queensland Horticulture Council is the preeminent body for deliberating industry policy, coordinated by Growcom, and is made up of representatives from each of the major horticulture growing regions in our state.

This week the Council is convening in Brisbane and at the top of the agenda is drought policy.

Many of the regions represented on the Council are currently witnessing some of the worst drought conditions in recorded history, including but not limited to the Granite Belt, the Lockyer Valley and the Burnett.

Which means the recent decision by the Federal Government to extend eligibility to permanent tree crops and vines for the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate has been very well received.

Rebates of up to 25% of costs associated with dam desilting and drilling new bores, to a maximum of $25,000, are available for work undertaken since 30 June.

While pleased, the Council will still have questions as to why it took so long for horticulture to earn eligibility and then not attract the same level of support as other industries in Queensland.

Since the very start of this drought livestock producers have had access to this 25% Federal rebate with an additional 50% rebate on top from the Queensland Government.

It’s understandable. The state has a responsibility for animal welfare and would be wary about opening up a new and ongoing line of budgetary liability.

But tens of thousands of trees are being pulled out of the ground right now. Many for lack of water. Each of these trees would require picking and pruning every year, creating huge numbers of jobs and local economic activity.

And healthy trees and vines lead to healthy profits and thriving regional communities. The link between plant health and human welfare is direct.

So the Council this week will be considering how we can improve the formulation of government policies and programs to ensure the significant impacts droughts have on our industry and local communities are captured.