Funding taps opened to break the strain of drought
The Federal Government has announced the details of its long-awaited assistance package for drought-affected farmers in Queensland and NSW.
The $320 million package is centred on concessional loans and income support to allow farmers deal with their situation.
Of that amount, $12 million will be spent on emergency water infrastructure schemes for the very driest parts of the two states.
The package also includes funds for pest management as well as social and mental health services in affected communities.
“There are no magic wands but we will do what we can to help in difficult times,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said while announcing the package.
The shape of funding was reportedly determined as the Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce toured parts of rural Queensland and New South Wales.
“Only the good Lord and rain will ever fix the issue, but this helps along the process,” Mr Joyce said in a radio interview this morning.
“If a person has been a year-and-a-half without any income, no solid rain at the moment, can't get a crop in, they're more than six months away from further income ... they have a right and an expectation the nation should assist,” he said.
Opposition agriculture spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon says the income support and concessional loans are “the very initiative Labor's been calling upon [Mr Joyce] to act on over the course of the last month.”
National Farmers Federation president Brent Finlay says it is already too late for many farmers forced off their land by years of hardship.
“Certainly some - their businesses won't come out the other end of this and we're certainly seeing that in north-western New South Wales and certainly in northern Queensland,” he said.
“They're the areas that have been particularly impacted for a long period of time.
“We will lose a number of good farmers and good operations at the end of this drought,” he said.