Drought

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces additional help for farmers

scomo_drought.jpg

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has today announced additional help for drought-stricken farmers across the country. 

The Prime Minister made a just over $1 billion announcement today with his colleagues and said there is no "silver bullet" to the drought but they are standing shoulder to shoulder with farmers across the country with further drought support.

Among the announcements today was an additional $1 million was announced for drought affected councils, almost $139 million for Roads to Recovery, 100 gigalitres will be released into the Murray Darling for farmers to grow fodder and they will be making farmers existing and new loans interest free for two years.

The Prime Minister said the Coalition Government’s next step of measures to combat the drought’s impact was ready to flow.

“We are stepping up our drought response once again to meet the increasing needs as the drought’s effects also step up,” the Prime Minister said.

“Since the budget we have already committed an additional $355 million to step up our drought response. Today’s announcement triples this to more than $1 billion since the election, as well as more than $1 billion in new interest free loans, to see people through."

“This is money into the pockets of all those farmers and graziers who know they have a future, but are currently struggling to keep their operations running as the crippling effects of this drought continue to bite that we’ve heard from out on the ground. They are backing themselves and we are backing them to make it through to the better days that will be ahead."

“It’s not only farmers doing it tough in drought. Our next step in drought support also has an eye squarely on those communities feeling the strain as work dries up and spending in local stores slows down."

“There is no silver bullet to this drought. Each time we introduce further help we listen, we learn and we adjust our response because we know each community has different needs and priorities that need the resources and cooperation of every level of government.”

New and existing drought loans for farmers will be interest free for two years and then years three to five will be interest only payment and years six to ten will be interest and principal.

Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said right now the current rate is 3.11%.

"I don't know where the rates will be in two years time but the rate is reviewed every six months in May and November."

David Littleproud said they are behind on loans, but working as best they can. 

"We are working as quickly as we can. You've got to understand that the staff we put into these places have to have a certain skill set and that's not widely available and we are containing to ramp it up, we are working with a service provider through Rural Bank to  make sure that that is complemented and ensuring that our turn around times are continuing to improve," he said.

Other measures announced today include:

- A new program for small businesses dependent on agriculture with loans worth up to $500,000 that can be used to pay staff, buy equipment and refinance. It follows the same new payment scheme as the Drought Loans for farmers
- $10 million to support schools facing financial hardship as a result of ongoing drought conditions, including fee concessions for boarding students
- $5 million from the Community Child Care Fund will help assist centres that are experiencing decreased demand and financial pressure due to families from drought-affected areas being unable to pay for child care
- An additional $1 million for each of the 122 drought-affected councils and shires if they need it
- $1 million each for new drought-affected councils and shires including Greater Hume, Hilltops, Lockhart and Upper Lachlan in NSW, and Kangaroo Island and Tatiara in SA
- $50 million discretionary fund to support projects in Local Government Areas impacted by the drought
- Redirecting $200 million into a Building Better Regions Fund drought round to support new projects that deliver social and economic benefits to drought-affected communities
- $138.9 million additional Roads to Recovery funding in calendar year 2020 for the 128 Local Government Areas eligible for the Drought Communities Programme Extension
-  100 gigalitres of water that will be used to grow up to 120,000 tonnes of fodder as well as silage and pasture to secure supplies for the months ahead.

Image credit: Prime Minister Scott Morrison Twitter https://twitter.com/ScottMorrisonMP/Media