Drought Assistance Fund: $4 million in loans approved and counting

PLEASED: Pip Job and Niall Blair unveiled the Drought Assistance Fund at Dubbo last month and have already received 248 applications.
PLEASED: Pip Job and Niall Blair unveiled the Drought Assistance Fund at Dubbo last month and have already received 248 applications.

Farmers from across western NSW have embraced the government’s Drought Assistance Fund, with more than $11 million worth of applications received since the fund was unveiled at Dubbo five weeks ago.

Funding to transport livestock, fodder and water has dominated the applications (about $5 million worth), followed by water infrastructure (about $4 million) and fodder infrastructure ($2.5 million).

The fund provides $50,000 loans with a two-year repayment-free period followed by a five-year interest-free repayment period. 

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said the take-up rates proved the fund was “hitting the mark”.

“They are adjustments that we’ve made [to our Farm Innovation Fund] and the fact that we’ve had more than $10 million worth of applications in just over a month really shows that people do need help, and the type of assistance we’re providing,” he said.

“It’s pleasing on one hand, but on the other I wish we weren’t in this predicament and people didn’t need our help.”

DAF loan recipients have 12 months to draw down loans, making it a “really good business enabler” according to State Drought Coordinator Pip Job.

The fund also covers genetic banking, with about $165,000 worth of applications received so far from farming businesses, such as cattle studs, looking to hold onto their core genetic stock when retaining the animals are not an option.

“There has been a surprising uptake of people interested in the … long-term preservation of genetics,” Ms Job said.

“The Drought Assistance Fund is very simple and people can either lodge that themselves, online or paper-based, or they can see their rural financial counsellor.”

“The money will expire after 12 months … an interest-free loan facility is a pretty good tool to have and if you end up using it to offset some of that fodder or water requirement then it’s a good little business tool to have on hand.”

A total of 248 applications have been received from farming businesses across the state: Armidale, Balranald, Bathurst, Berrigan, Bingara, Bland, Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Cabonne, Carrathool, Central Darling, Central West, Cobar, Coolamon, Coonabarabran, Coonamble, Cootamundra, Cowra, Dubbo, Dungog, Forbes, Gilgandra, Glen Innes, Goulburn, Gundagai, Gunnedah, Gwydir, Hay, Inverell, Lachlan, Liverpool Plains, Mid-Western, Midcoast, Moree Plains, Mulwaree, Murray River, Murrurundi, Muswellbrook, Narrabri, Narrandera, Narromine, Oberon, Parkes, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Shoalhaven, Snowy Valleys, Sutherland, Tamworth, Temora, Upper Hunter, Upper Lachlan, Uralla, Walcha, Walgett, Warren, Warrumbungle, Weddin and Wentworth.

Funding for the loans comes from the Farm Innovation Fund and is processed through the Rural Assistance Authority.