AgForce has described the $100 million of new Federal drought assistance measures announced this morning by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as “not just welcome, but life-changing”.
AgForce Grains President Brendan Taylor, whose property is at Bowenville near where the announcement was made, said the measures would help farming families put food on their table, reduce the stress of finding money to pay bills, and keep communities going as conditions continue to deteriorate with no rain in sight.
“We commend Mr Morrison for listening to the advice and requests of AgForce and rural producers, and implementing a compassionate and forward-looking package of new initiatives,” Mr Taylor said.
“In particular, the common-sense changes made to the Farm Household Allowance in response to our feedback are significant and will make this vital assistance package more accessible to more people in tough times.
“The re-introduction of the Drought Community Support Initiative, through which farming families experiencing hardship can receive grants of up to to $3,000, will also provide a financial and emotional boost, especially in the lead-up to the Christmas period.
“We also welcome the commitment to reskilling and retraining programs that will assist producers to find other work to maintain some income during times of hardship.
“Combined with the money available to 13 local councils to undertake drought-related infrastructure projects, this will provide additional employment opportunities for producers and economic stimulus to their local communities.
“These are both targeted programs that will provide vital financial assistance in the short-term, as well as long-term benefit to the agriculture industry and the community.
“Additional funding for essential support services – such as through charities and financial counselling – will be critical in helping farming families with their backs to the wall to not only survive but to build resilience.”
Mr Taylor said AgForce and the wider industry were appreciative of the Morrison Government’s ‘listening style’ and will work with them on additional assistance if conditions deteriorated further.
“Even though farm income slows or even stops during a drought, bills do not, and this creates an enormous amount of stress on families,” he said.
“In addition to essentials like food, fuel and utilities, large long-term expenses such as land rent, GST bills and Council rates become impossible to pay when no money is coming in.
“And when you have been in drought for, in many cases, up to seven years, it can escalate into a significant financial burden.”