The New South Wales Government yesterday announced a new package of emergency in-drought support measures for producers in the State’s north west, in a move that has warmly welcomed by the NSW Farmers Associaiton.
The package announced by NSW deputy premier Andrew Stoner and primary industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson includes $7.6 million in emergency support measures for the Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett local government areas.
Key elements of the package are:
- up to $20,000 per producer in the form of a Transport Assistance Reimbursement, back-dated to 1 July 2013;
- up to $30,000 per producer for Emergency Water Infrastructure Grants, which the Commonwealth Government has indicated it will match;
- additional funding for the Rural Support Worker Program and a drought incident co-ordinator;
- the waiving of Western Lands Lease payments;
- the waiving of Wild Dog Destruction Board rates; and
- Transport Subsidies for Animal Welfare, focused on stock going to sale or slaughter where there is significant risk to animal welfare, which will remain while drought conditions persist.
Mr Stoner said the assistance package follows drought preparedness and in-drought support measures announced on 30 October 2013 and recognises the plight many landholders in North West NSW currently face.
“Landholders and communities in North West NSW are currently dealing with extraordinarily difficult circumstances,” Mr Stoner said.
“While the NSW Government is moving towards preparing farmers for drought rather than providing in-drought crisis support, there is currently a critical need to provide immediate assistance,” he said.
Ms Hodgkinson said the package brings NSW into line with assistance provided in drought-stricken areas of Queensland and is in addition the assistance measures announced on 30 October 2013, which include:
- a new $20 million Farm Innovation Fund, to provide primary producers with loans at concessional interest rates for in-drought and drought preparedness measures;
- $4.4 million to fund phase three of the popular Cap and Pipe the Bores program;
- the deferral of Special Conservation Scheme and Natural Disaster loans by the Rural Assistance Authority on a case-by-case basis; and
- deferral of Livestock Health and Pest Authority rates for producers in the Brewarrina, Walgett and Bourke local government areas.
Ms Hodgkinson said many of the producers in North West NSW have prepared to the best extent possible.
“However, this scenario clearly illustrates that no matter how well producers may prepare for drought, it is impossible to completely drought-proof a property,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
“Primary production is critical to these communities and the NSW Government recognises that helping farmers will assist to preserve the social and economic fabric of the community at large.
“I have been acutely aware of the situation facing primary producers and rural communities in North West NSW and have worked as quickly as possible to develop a package of preparedness and in-drought support measures.”
NSW Farmers hailed announcement as a breakthrough for a region that has been managing extremely dry conditions for more than 18 months.
The association has been advocating for interim in-drought support measures for farmers in the Walgett, Brewarrina and Bourke areas of the state for several months.
NSW Farmers President Fiona Simson said farmers were particularly pleased with the transport assistance which formed part of its $7.6 million emergency support measures.
“Farmers in the north west have been preparing and managing drought for more than 18 months with some spending more than $150,000 to manage the drought.
“Crops were not planted because there was not enough soil moisture and most livestock farmers have destocked by selling or sending stock away on agistment and have fed remaining stock from stored fodder reserves or buying feed in.
“The minister is correct when she says no matter how well producers may prepare for drought, it is impossible to completely drought-proof a property.
“This announcement has come at a critical time for farmers in the north west who are particularly grateful the government has understood that primary production is critical to the north west communities and that by helping farmers, it is also helping preserve the social and economic fabric of the community at large.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost to local communities due to the drought. This assistance will help farmers with short term cash flow problems and put them in a better position to get back on their feet quickly when the drought breaks.
“Our industry is thankful the government has listened to our association and the farmers in the north west and announced these in-drought measures,” she concluded.
She also noted that there is an increasing area of the state that is experiencing very dry conditions, missing out on recent rainfall. Farmers are, and should be looking at taking preparedness measures now to manage what looks to be a drier summer.
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