Drought package will allow NSW farmers to tailor support to their business

Wednesday’s drought announcement package has been described as “comprehensive”, and will allow farmers across NSW to tailor the financial support to their business.

Despite farming organisations and central west farmers calling for freight subsidies, no financial support for that was announced.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair announced additional funding for the Farm Innovation Fund, a new weather station, mental health and a new kangaroo management plan at a property just outside of Dubbo on Wednesday. 

Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said as they’ve travelled around the state over recent months they heard different messages from farmers.

“But the one thing that is certain is that every farming business is different and to come up with a package  that is going to allow those farmers to tailor the support  and the infrastructure that they want for their farm  is a corner stone of what we are doing here today,” he said at the announcement on Wednesday.

Mr Blair said the drought package, especially the additional $250 million to the Farm Innovation Fund, was about making sure they are “responsive as a government and were standing by the farmers and food and fibre producers of NSW.”

“Every farming business is different and this will allow our farmers to tailor the support that they need for their business,” he said.

A new kangaroo management plan will be put in place to reduce kangaroo numbers in drought-hit areas.

“The other feedback we’ve had right across the state is the impact kangaroos are having, not just on farmers, but on broader communities and roadways of regional NSW,” Mr Blair said.

“Today that will assist and address those issues that are being raised by many different regional communities in NSW.”

Deputy Premier Barilaro described the funding as a “comprehensive package”.

“It’s dire.. the drought is biting and for some communities they haven’t seen rain for in-excess of 18 months which has meant that there’s a real issue around feed,” he said.

Deputy Premier Barilaro acknowledged that many, including farming organisations and central west farmers have asked for freight subsides.

“There are going to be people today who will talk about freight subsidies but freight subsidies in itself as we can see distorts the market, it pushes freight prices and feed stock prices up, at the same time a lot of people have de-stocked and this is now about the next stage,” he said.

But Deputy Premier Barilaro said if the drought continues the government will continue to help and evolve their financial assistance to support farmers

“The truth of all this is in six months, 12 months, if the drought is still on the government will continue to evolve around our package and our support because this is something we’re going to be in partnership,” he said.

“Hopefully it rains, hopefully we see some winter rain and spring rain and we can start seeing the turn around but today the package is comprehensive.”

The Farm Innovation Fund received an additional $250 million to provide farmers with low-interest loans of up to $250,000 to improve farm infrastructure and help farmers prepare for a deal with drought.

“Topping the Fund up… means farmers will have access to put in infrastructure on farm that helps them and protects them for future droughts but at the same time deals with some of the issues today,” Deputy Premier Barilaro said.

He said the $50,000 loans were a flexible way to support farmers who want to cover freight costs.

“And we say no interest for seven years but the repayments don’t start until two years after the drought. So when you’re making money again you start making those repayments,” he said.

“This has been the message on the ground by many of the landholders and farmers to actually support.. Its a hand up not a hand out. It’s about actually supporting our farmers at a time that is going to be very, very difficult.”

Premier Berejiklian said the Farm Innovation Fund –  which will introduce new loans of up to $50,000 that will be interest-free for seven years –  will help farmers through difficult times.

“A lot of the feedback we’ve been getting is how expensive it is to get feed for stock so we’re making a no interest free loan up to $50,000 for farmers to actually obtain the feed they need to keep their stock going and that’s really important…,” she said.

“We want to make sure that those who don’t have cash on hand are able to apply for one of these loans up to $50,000, they don’t have to pay us back for some years and it’s interest free for seven years, so that will help them through these difficult times.”