FLOOD affected cattle producers in north western Queensland will have access to cheaper loans to help restock properties and rebuild infrastructure, and their recovery will be aided by the establishment of a North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency, under new measures announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison today.
The Agency will design, coordinate and deliver the long term plan for reconstructing the industry.
It will assist in the design of programs to help with seed funding for fixing on-farm infrastructure like fences and water infrastructure and for restocking.
The Government says it will also ask financiers who have lent to flood-affected farmers asking them to not foreclose or force the sale of farms for at least three years; defer interest and principal repayments where appropriate for up to three years; andcommit to continue lending for stock and herd replacement, supported by grants from the Commonwealth government and with security over the stock rather than the family home.
The Prime Minister said that on his recent visit to the flood affected region he met families who had been on the land for generations building their herd.
“To see them washed away, lying in the dry mud, it’s just heartbreaking,” the Prime Minister said
“We will help them and North Queensland rebuild, farm by farm, station by station.
“This is not about compensation, it’s about rebuilding and reconstruction.”
The Agency will be led by Shane Stone AC QC and will report directly to the Prime Minister.
Mr Stone will be supported by an advisory board that will include representatives of the northern cattle industry and local governments.
The advisory board will provide advice to the Prime Minister on how existing and new Commonwealth policies and programs can best contribute to the reconstruction.
The Morrison Government is also changing the mandate of the Regional Investment Corporation to allow it to develop concessional loan products for farmers.
This will see farmers refinance existing debt as well as access to loans for restocking (using the stock as collateral).
The Government has written to each of the large Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs) who have lent to flood-affected farmers asking them to:
The Government is working with individual banks to finalise the details of what each will offer. As part of the arrangements being discussed, the Government has offered ADIs low-cost loans which they would be required to pass on to eligible farmers in lower interest rates. This will help those farmers to stabilise their financial position – and is estimated to be worth up to $2 billion.
It said this relief would be available for existing and new agribusiness loans to primary producers in flood-affected North Queensland, and would not be available to multinational corporations and/or listed companies.
A government agency will administer the loan mechanism and will establish a process for verifying that the lower interest rate has been passed-on to eligible farmers.
The Government said it acknowledges the steps that banks have already announced to provide assistance to those affected.
The Government is also providing additional assistance for small businesses and not-for-profits, boosting special recovery grants from $25,000 to $50,000. These funds will assist businesses to rebuild, repair and replace stock, plant and equipment.
Immediate assistance is already being rolled out; with well over $110 million delivered to flood affected communities in recent weeks.
The Government also notes the ATO are taking steps to provide assistance to flood-affected taxpayers by:
More help for telehealth services will also be available from 1 March 2019. A new time-limited Medicare item will be available from 1 March 2019 to 30 June 2019 to fund General Practitioners to provide care by telehealth (video conference) to people in flood-affected areas in Queensland. Providers and patients in flood-affected areas will gain immediate access to the health rebates for four months.
For more information, visit https://pmc.gov.au/nqlra
Cattle Council of Australia CEO Margo Andrae said the Federal Government package would mean cattle producing families in north west Queensland would be given breathing space to recover and rebuild.
“Today’s announcement gives producers time to plan ahead and the incentive to re-invest in their businesses. It represents a significant step forward in terms of giving these communities the confidence to navigate their way out of this disaster.
“The Federal Government is clearly committed to the future of the cattle industry in north west Queensland and the wellbeing of the affected communities. As an industry, we will work to ensure today’s commitment translates into meaningful outcomes in the months and years ahead because giving producers the confidence to start restocking and rebuilding on-farm infrastructure will stimulate significant ongoing economic activity in the region far beyond the farmgate.
“Alongside government investment in the reconstruction of roads and other regional infrastructure, the wheels of the north west Queensland economy will start rolling again – and the morale of those communities will get a very timely boost.”