Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce just minutes ago delivered on a promise made earlier to provide extra measures to support farmers and graziers, particularly those dealing with drought.
In a statement, Mr Joyce said Farm Finance concessional loan funds would be reallocated to better reflect the number of farm businesses in each jurisdiction and to ensure they were available to farmers in areas of greatest need by reason of current seasonal conditions.
“These changes better reflect the current requirements on-the-ground and bring a substantial increase to the areas in need,” he said.
The reallocation of Farm Finance funding means Queensland will have $50 million in 2013-14 and $30m in 2014-15. New South Wales and Victoria will have $40m in 2013-14 and $30m in 2014-15. South Australia and Western Australia will have $25m for both years, while the NT and Tasmania will have $15m for both years.
“I encourage farming families to apply to their respective state delivery agency for a concessional loan, especially those in drought affected areas. At a concessional rate of 4.5 percent for amounts up to $650,000 and $1 million for Queensland this should give a substantial financial benefit to participants,” Mr Joyce said.
“This funding reallocation better reflects the distribution of farm businesses across Australia. By reallocating funds, we are also creating a reserve fund in the 2014-15 year of the loans scheme which will allow the Australian Government to respond to emerging issues and put the funds where they are most needed at the time.
“Today, I can also announce a further $7 million in support for Queensland to assist farm businesses with water-based infrastructure. This will supplement the Queensland Government’s existing emergency water rebate and allow the delivery of further watering points around drought affected properties,” Mr Joyce said.
“Queensland farmers are being provided additional support because of high debt levels brought on by a range of factors.
“I am also discussing with the NSW Government whether they intend to make available similar measures to Queensland and have earmarked $3 million to contribute to those measures should they be implemented.
“Those states with yet to be finalised agreements will be anxious. I made a commitment to review the scheme to better target this assistance and ensure that it's effective, not just for one jurisdiction but across the country once all these agreements are in place,” Mr Joyce said.
“These loans are targeted at those farm businesses that need a helping hand from the government to put them back on track. Every farm business that is profitable and competitive means a more prosperous rural Australia.”
Mr Joyce said he wanted more work done to ensure access to assistance measures was not blocked by red tape.
“For example, I have asked my department to look at options for improving all the services it provides to farmers under these programs.
“Rural Financial Counsellors across Australia can assist farmers in navigating the paperwork to access assistance measures, including the Transitional Farm Family Payment.
“Between the finance provided at 4.5pc, income support for those in need, the additional water infrastructure support and free financial counselling, I hope this shows this Government is doing our part in these dire seasonal conditions,” Mr Joyce said.