Changes to the Farm Finance Package announced by agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce yesterday have drawn a largely positive reaction from farm representative groups.
Mr Joyce’s announcement yesterday included the following key points:
- The reallocation of Farm Finance concessional loan funds to better reflect the number of businesses in each jurisdiction and greatest need by current seasonal conditions;
- Queensland will now receive $50 million in 2013-14 and $30m in 2014-15. NSW and Victoria will have $40m in 2013-14 and $30m in 2014-15. SA and WA will each have $25m for both years, while the NT and Tasmania will each have $15m for both years;
- The concessional loans are available at 4.5 percent for amounts up to $650,000 and $1 million for Queensland;
- The announcement of $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 is 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;
- Assistance available under the Farm Finance Package includes access to Rural Financial Counselors across Australia and income support through the Transitional Farm Family Payment;
NFF: 'Small and sensible', but expanded funding should be priority
The National Farmers Federation and its members have been lobbying the Government to improve drought policy by including measures that assist with preparedness, in-event support and recovery.
The peak farmer group said it believes drought policy improvements should be funded from new allocations and should not reduce the capacity of existing measures within the agriculture portfolio.
NFF president Duncan Fraser said the organisation recognised that existing packages needed to have flexibility to ensure support could be provided where it was most needed, which in this case means drought stricken regions of Queensland, NSW and the Northern Territory.
However the NFF said Mr Joyce’s announcement also demonstrated that the Federal Government “needed to improve its commitment to agriculture”.
“The measures announced today are small but sensible steps. However, there is still significant work ahead for State and Federal Governments to finalise drought policy reform,” Mr Fraser said.
AgForce: Aid will provide 'financial breathing space'
In Queensland AgForce said it welcomed Mr Joyce’s measures, which would provide “financial ‘breathing space’ for producers across Queensland.
“We are heartened that after visiting some of the areas most impacted by this dry the Minister has responded in a way that will help alleviate some of the financial pressure on our primary producers,” Chief Executive Officer, Charles Burke, said.
“We also welcome the Minister’s announcement more work will be done to ensure access to the assistance would not be blocked by red tape and that Rural Financial Counselors will be available to assist farmers access the additional assistance measures.
“Additionally, the further $7 million for Queensland for water-based infrastructure announced today will add to existing State Government assistance and address a key challenge of this drought while providing a legacy that will help recipients increase their drought resilience into the future.”
A recent AgForce survey of producers in 30 shires showed that 70pc rated this drought as more severe financially than previous events, while many have reported the last 12 months.
The survey also revealed 40pc of respondents had received only 0 to 150mm rainfall in the past 12 months, while 27pc indicated current water shortages were critical and 20pc expected water supply to reach critical shortages within a month.
Furthermore, respondents said the drought impacts had been exacerbated by poor market conditions including ongoing effects of the previous Federal Government’s decision to suspend live export, recovery from other natural disasters (past drought, floods, fires, frost, heat), and rising input costs.
Mr Burke said many producers were stretched to the limit destocking, supplementary feeding and trying to secure alternative sources of water to keep stock alive.
“We are pleased today’s announcement will help, in part, to alleviate additional pressures.”
NSW Farmers: Time for State to act on water
NSW Farmers was equally welcoming of Mr Joyce’s announcement, and said it was now time for the NSW Government to “urgently engage” on water assistance.
“It is critical the NSW Government urgently engages with industry to design a water infrastructure package that will assist farmers to increase water efficiency and upgrade water delivery infrastructure,” NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said.
Ms Simson said many of the NSW government’s existing measures would not provide direct relief because they were focused on preparedness measures when parts of the state were already in drought.
Ms Simson said farmers at Brewarrina, Bourke and Walgett who have been experiencing dry conditions for 18 months are already in drought.
“What they are telling us is they need urgent interim assistance now with transport and fodder subsidies and low interest loans and that they need them now just like Queensland,” she said.
“These farmers and communities are hurting now and every extra day compounds their situation.
“Despite preparing for drought by storing grain and fodder and making proactive management decisions around the selling of stock or putting in watering systems, sometimes there is just nothing that can be done to completely drought proof a farm.”
- For further information on the Farm Finance package visit www.daff.gov.au
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