Funds flow for drought recovery

NSW Farmers welcomes announcements today by the federal and state governments that reaffirm their ongoing commitment to drought affected farmers and their communities.

The NSW Government’s additional $310 million for drought support will be critical to farmers as they restock and replant.

NSW Farmers President James Jackson says for those farmers that have had some rain, rebuilding after the ravages of drought is costly and most farming operations will not return income or potential profit for at least six to 12 months.

“Expanding the drought transport subsidy to cover 50% of transport costs for re-stocking is a win for farmers, and is a positive and welcome response from Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall to NSW Farmers’ advocacy in this space.” Mr Jackson says.

“Many farmers will have destocked as the drought deepened or faced increased costs for keeping livestock. As the drought has been so widespread, the costs of transport are also significantly higher.”

“The rebuild effort of farmers with limited cash flow will be aided by the doubling of the interest free Drought Assistance Fund loans from $50,000 to $100,000. Farmers may, however, be cautious taking on additional debt, despite long-term forecasts looking positive.”

The Australian Government has also released today the long awaited details of the Future Drought Fund. The fund’s focus is on preparedness and resilience-building, with an initial commitment of $89.5 million for programs relating to business and personal leadership, management and training; improved climate services; research and adaptation; and community drought resilience planning.

Mr Jackson says while these programs intend to support farmers to develop stronger risk planning and participate in collaborative innovation, it is critical that these activities are fit for purpose and can be shaped to meet the needs of the individual farmer.

“NSW Farmers recognises the value of the Rural Financial Counselling Service, which has provided critical support for farmers as they manage through drought conditions. Programs that build management and planning must complement and extend this existing program.” Mr Jackson says.

“We also welcome the $15 million Natural Resource Management Drought Resilience program that will provide grants to farming groups and individuals to reduce soil erosion and improve water filtration and moisture storage capacity.”

“Many of these projects are not scheduled to commence for 12 months, but work with individuals, communities and farm businesses needs to commence now. The outlook for the future is uncertain, so the fund must be accessible to support both short term and longer term drought planning and on-farm risk management.”

“While NSW Farmers welcomes the opening of the Future Drought Fund, we also call on the Australian Government to commit additional funds to continue the Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate. This returns 25% of costs of water infrastructure installed on-farms, paid for by the farmer, and has delivered real outcomes for drought management and resilience.”

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