Drought package whets the appetite

THE federal government’s drought support for farmers is recognition that agriculture is a viable industry but that it needs assistance “now and then”, according to NSW Farmers Bathurst branch president Ian Hendry.

“The measures are really welcome and I take my hat off to the government,” he said.

“These measures are available to all farmers, not just those in drought-declared areas.

“While we were hoping for 2 per cent interest on the concessional loans, the 4 per cent announced will be 2 to 4 per cent less than many farmers are paying now.

“It will now be up to farmers to talk with their banks to restructure loans.

“The concessional loans are available for five years, which will help people in the short term to restock and buy feed.”

What’s in it for farmers: An interim and more generous farm household allowance which has been brought forward to start from March 3. An additional $280 million for drought concessional loans. A further $12 million for emergency water infrastructure schemes ($4 million for NSW on top of the NSW government’s contribution). $10 million to assist with pest management. Increased access to social and mental health services through a $10.7 million program.

Mr Hendry said he was still waiting to see the specifics of the eligibility criteria that will apply to the drought support.

“Many farmers will also need assistance to fill out the necessary forms,” he said.

Mr Hendry said he was amazed Bathurst had not been drought declared.

“From east of Orange through Blayney and Oberon to Lithgow has been very dry,” he said.

“[Bathurst MP] Paul Toole has been pushing for drought recognition, but it has not been forthcoming.”

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Mr Hendry said the recent rain had been very welcome, but follow-up falls were needed.

“I went to a dinner after the first rain and everyone had a smile on their face,” he said.

“It has been gentle, soaking rain that has increased surface moisture, but has not filled the soil profile.

“The recent warm days have been curling up what grass there is because there is no moisture.

“Farmers are living in hope of a good autumn to set them up with some feed going into winter, after a very tough summer.”

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