Assistance available for New England Electorate farmers in drought
27 October 2015
Joint media release from Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce and Senator for New South Wales, John Williams.
WITH drought conditions extending in parts of New South Wales, Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and Senator for New South Wales, John Williams, highlighted the assistance measures that were available to help New England farmers in need.
Minister Joyce said that parts of New South Wales, particularly grazing and cropping districts in the North and North-West of the state, continue to experience challenging conditions, and ABARES has recently revised down its winter crop production forecast by around five per cent for New South Wales.
“As drought conditions persist I encourage farmers to think about the assistance programmes that are available and to seriously think about which of them could help their family or business better manage drought conditions.
“$55 million in concessional loans for drought-affected farm businesses in NSW in 2015–16 is now available—I encourage those interested to contact the NSW Rural Assistance Authority to find out more.
“Drought Concessional Loans, currently with an interest rate of 3.05 per cent and a five-year term, help farm businesses experiencing drought to restructure existing debt, or to fund operating expenses or drought preparedness and recovery activities.
“Drought Recovery Concessional Loans, currently with an interest rate of 2.71 per cent and a ten-year term, help farm businesses experiencing drought to fund planting and/or restocking drought recovery activities and associated expenses when seasonal conditions allow.
“Some 247 New South Wales farm businesses have been approved concessional loans under the Coalition.
Senator Williams said that a range of other Commonwealth measures were available to help farmers experiencing hardship as a result of drought.
“There’s the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) that provides free financial counselling to farmers, fishers and small rural businesses who are suffering financial hardship and who have no alternative sources of impartial advice. The Government has provided an additional $1.8 million to help the RFCS deliver services to a further 500 farmers in drought affected areas.
“In 2015–16, $4.83 million has been allocated to RFCS providers in New South Wales and has been put to good use with 1,268 clients receiving help from this service in the first quarter of this financial year.
“The RFCS can help farming families determine what assistance measures best meet their needs. Some may be eligible for income support—1,965 people in New South Wales have already been granted the Farm Household Allowance. This is a demand driven programme—if you’re eligible you will receive it.
“The Department of Human Services delivers the Farm Household Allowance; more information about this assistance is available by calling the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316.
“The Australian Taxation Office has a dedicated hotline to provide advice to drought-affected taxpayers (13 11 42, select option 3). Nationally they’ve received more than 8,300 calls already.
“Through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, the Coalition Government has committed $2.5 billion to keep a low interest loans product available for at least another 10 years so farmers can have some certainty about the support available to them in future years,” Senator Williams said.
Minister Joyce also highlighted other measures, including several under the Ag White Paper, currently available or being developed to assist farmers:
- simplified depreciation arrangements for fencing—farmers are now able to immediately tax deduct the cost of new fencing in the first year of purchase.
- immediate tax deduction of the cost of new water infrastructure, and accelerated three-year depreciation of capital expenditure on fodder storage assets—worth an estimated $86 million.
- rolling out $20 million in additional funding for 2015–16 to expand access to community mental health and family support in drought-affected areas across Australia covering 24 local government areas in New South Wales, with additional Commonwealth drought coordinators already at work.
- investing $3.3 million in a Bureau of Meteorology project to give farmers more localised, more accurate and more frequent seasonal forecasts—work has already commenced on the implementation of a new forecasting model and consultations are underway with users on their needs from the improved service.
- investing $25.8 million nationally to manage pests animals and weeds in drought-affected areas. New South Wales projects are expected to be announced shortly.
Minister Joyce urged farmers facing worsening conditions to investigate if any of the Australian Government programmes on offer could help them.
“It makes good sense to see what assistance your business can access—so I encourage farmers not to self-assess their eligibility and to talk through options with the Department of Human Services, NSW-RAA or their local rural financial counselling service,” Minister Joyce said.
To find your local Rural Financial Counselling Service please visit: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/assistance/assistancerural-financial-counselling-service/counsellors/nsw
To enquire about a drought concessional loan, please visit: http://www.raa.nsw.gov.au/
For more information on the range of Australian Government assistance for farmers, farm businesses and rural communities, visit agriculture.gov.au/assistance.