Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan and Kyogle Mayor Danielle Mulholland today met with Robert Gordon, one of many local farmers impacted by drought conditions in the Kyogle LGA.
“Labor have questioned Kyogle’s need for drought assistance. Today people can see for themselves how desperately this assistance is needed for Kyogle.” Mr Hogan said.
Standing next to an abnormally dry creek bed, Mr Gordon who is a multigenerational local farmer said he had never seen it so dry, for so long, on his property.
“I am having to buy in exceptionally expensive feed to keep my core breeding stock” he said.
Mayor Danielle Mulholland said she “has been taking calls daily from distressed farmers who need help. They are running out of drinking water and feed for their stock.”
“It is exceptionally disappointing to have Labor question our need for the assistance the Federal Government has provided.” She said.
“Under the Drought Communities Programme Extension, Kyogle Council will have access to up to $1 million to complete local infrastructure and drought-relief projects.” Mr Hogan said
Farming households can also receive up to $3,000 to spend in their local communities to cover urgent bills such as food, petrol and utilities, taking stress off families and boosting the local economy.
“The effects of the drought are not just felt on the farm – regional communities and businesses suffer as people spend less in towns.”
The government is working with the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul Society to make sure this money hits the ground quickly and gets to those most in need.
The government will also simplify Farm Household Allowance applications. The changes will remove business income reconciliation, change the time limit on payment to four years in every ten, simplify the assets test and recognise agistment.
“These changes will make FHA quicker and easier to access,” Mr Hogan said.
“The government also announced an injection of $740,000 of contingency funding to five Rural Financial Counselling Service providers who are experiencing pressure from increased demand.
“It’s really important that those in need of support do not self-assess their eligibility and instead seek advice from an expert, like a rural financial counsellor,”
“This new package will boost the economy, create jobs, engage local businesses and provide a long-lasting benefit to the community and the rural industries it depends on,” Mr Hogan said.
We have already committed over $7 billion worth of assistance to help support our drought-affected farmers and communities.
This includes the $3.9 billion Future Drought Fund, which will continue to grow to $5 billion..
These measures include financial assistance, infrastructure investment, rural and regional mental health, combating pests and weeds, implementing immediate tax deductions, increasing access and simplifying support information, broadening access to the Farm Household Allowance, and the Rural Financial Counselling Service.
We also recognise that the needs won’t stop when it rains. This is why we also committed to developing concessional replanting and restocking assistance to help get farmers back on their feet.
All of these projects will continue into the future, even during the good years, it is not limited to just drought.
Our ongoing programs include the Farm Household Allowance (FHA), which has supported 12500 farmers with over $300 million in fortnightly support payments. This has been extended to include a Special Drought Supplement payment, paid in two instalments of $3,600 for singles and $3,000 for each partner for couples.
The FHA has also been made easier to qualify for by maintaining the net farm asset threshold at $5 million. This measure was only a temporary measure, but it has received Royal Assent on the 7th of August, which means it will now been maintained. This change has now opened up the program to thousands more farmers who may be asset rich, but cash poor.
The $30 million Drought Community Support Initiative and $5 million has also been provided to the CWA to support their drought charity efforts.
We have invested $29.4 million for mental health services, and we are providing $15 million in extra funding to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renew to deliver small scale grants for not-for-profit community groups.
Small businesses are also being catered for with the $50 million Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme, $77 million for the Rural Financial Counselling Service, $77.2 million in funding for radars to address gaps in weather forecasting for farmers, $75 million for accelerated fodder storage asset depreciation to provide farmers the option to instantly depreciate their asset, instead of depreciating it over 3 years and many other taxation measures and concessions to help with income management.
Overall communities are also receiving assistance.
110 local governments have access to $1 million each to deliver local infrastructure and drought relief products over 2018-19 and 2019-20.
There has been $23.7 million provided to fast track the capping of free-flowing bores across the Great Artesian Basin as well as $72 million in funding for a special National Water Infrastructure Development Fund drought round.
In addition, the NSW Government has also committed over $1.8 billion to drought relief in NSW.
There is the Drought Assistance Fund, which $50,000 available for interest free loans to transport stock, fodder and water, genetic banking of breeding herds and installing farm and water infrastructure.
These loans do not require a payment for the first two years and there is no interest.
The Farm Innovation Fund is also available for capital works up to a value of $1,000,000 for infrastructure works (e.g. sheds, silos, water tanks) to build resilience in dry times and improve on-farm efficiency.
There are also waivers available for Agricultural Vehicle Registration, Farm Innovation Fund Interest Charges, NSW Local Land Services Rates, Water Licences and Wild Dog Fence Charges.
We have done much, but every day it doesn’t rain we need to do more.
For more information and to apply for assistance visit http://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought or call 1800 900 090.