November 7, 2019
AgForce Qld has welcomed the Federal Government’s new drought support measures, saying they will deliver much-needed economic stimulus for farm-dependent communities and small businesses.
The latest drought package, announced on Thursday, includes $709 million in direct support, no-interest periods for drought loans for farmers and small businesses, further support for rural schools and remote students, and economic stimulus for regional communities.
AgForce general president Georgie Somerset said regional Queensland would welcome any and all assistance available from all levels of government as the drought showed no signs of easing.
“While there has been some rainfall in certain parts of Queensland recently, it has been nowhere near enough to provide any real relief for farmers and communities besieged by this crippling drought,” Mrs Somerset said.
“The government’s decision to redirect $200 million into a Building Better Regions Fund drought round to support new projects that deliver social and economic benefits to drought-affected communities is vital.”
Mrs Somerset said AgForce was also looking for the State Government to do more.
“AgForce wrote to the Premier’s office weeks ago seeking to have talks with the State Government to secure a commitment to increase the amount of drought assistance available, including funding local government to provide rates relief,” she said.
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Drought Minister and Member for Maranoa David Littleproud said the new drought package would boost local jobs and respond to individual community’s needs.
“On top of the $1 million we’ve delivered to 122 Councils, we’ll make another $1 million available for those still in need,” he said.
“We’ve also set up a $50 million fund for Council projects in drought-hit communities for things like community hall renovations and playground upgrades.
“This will boost rural economies with more jobs and more business for regional suppliers like the local hardware store.”
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New Drought Package
The Federal Government’s new measures include:
- Making new and existing drought loans for farmers interest-free for two years so they can buy fodder, pay for freight and pay farm hands. Years three to five will be interest-only payments and years six to 10 will be interest and principal. The current scheme is the first five years are interest-only payments, and interest and principal payments for the balance of the loan term.
- A new program for small businesses dependent on agriculture with loans worth up to $500,000 that can be used to pay staff, buy equipment and refinance. It follows the same new payment scheme as the drought loans for farmers.
- $10 million to support schools facing financial hardship as a result of ongoing drought conditions, including fee concessions for boarding students.
- $5 million from the Community Child Care Fund to help centres that are experiencing decreased demand and financial pressure due to families from drought-affected areas being unable to pay for child care.
- An extra $1 million for each of the 122 drought-affected Councils and Shires if they need it.
- $50 million discretionary fund to support projects in Local Government Areas impacted by the drought.
- Redirecting $200 million into a Building Better Regions Fund drought round to support new projects that deliver social and economic benefits to drought-affected communities.
- $138.9 million additional Roads to Recovery funding in calendar year 2020 for the 128 Local Government Areas eligible for the Drought Communities Program Extension.
These are on top of existing programs:
- Simplified and expanded access to the Farm Household Allowance (four in 10-year payment). Households are eligible for about $105,000 as well as an extra payment of $13,000 for couples.
- $3000 cash payments for families under the Drought Communities Support Initiative.
- $25 million to help farmers combat pests and weeds; $2.7 million to improve regional weather and climate guides; and $77.2 million for Bureau of Meteorology radars.
- $2 billion available in concessional loans through the Regional Investment Corporation to help farmers and small businesses prepare for, manage through and recover from drought.
- $5 million for the Rural Financial Counselling Service.
- $1 million for 122 Councils and Shires in drought-affected areas to invest in projects that support jobs and business income.
- $30 million for targeted mental health support.
- $50 million funding for major charities to assist rural Australians in desperate need with up to $3000 in individual support payments.