Farmers living in marginal seats get a helping hand

Farmers living in marginal seats get a helping hand


Opinion
Mal Peters questions the government's decision to provide funding to banks, who were crucified in the royal commission over their treatment of agriculture customers.

Mal Peters questions the government's decision to provide funding to banks, who were crucified in the royal commission over their treatment of agriculture customers.

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Governments are charged with the responsibility to help all farmers in trouble.

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The federal government's assistance package for flood affected North Queensland cattle farmers is extremely generous, while farmers on their knees affected by once-in-a-century drought in the rest of eastern Australia are wondering if they have a future in farming.

They feel abandoned by a government who helps farmers in marginal seats, but ignore those in National party strongholds.

No drought affected farmer would begrudge those in Queensland the help, but governments are charged with the responsibility to help all farmers in trouble.

The action is seen as completely inequitable, unacceptable and unfair.

Farmers know most federal drought assistance measures rarely end up in farmers pockets and go to mental health services, rural counsellors and community programs.

The current drought packages of FMD and RIC loans are firmly targeted to the larger producers or those eligible for farm household support, which puts a farmer through the indignity of fronting up to a Centrelink office with unemployed welfare recipients.

The drought preparation assistance, while welcome, is not much help if you do not have enough time to put it in place.

The government announced immediately after the floods, grants to North Queensland farmers of $75,000 under category C of the disaster relief fund.

Additionally, they will provide $3.1 billion to the North Queensland livestock industry.

Farmers will also get grants of up to $400,000 for restocking or replacing damaged farm infrastructure.

Prime Minister Morrison is providing $1.75 billion to banks to provide interest rate relief to primary producers who have been flood impacted, as well as a further $1 billion for further low interest Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) loans.

So, an individual farmer can get help through four channels; a $75,000 grant with no invoices; a $400,000 grant to buy stock; an interest rate reduction on existing bank loans; and lastly a RIC low interest loan.

By any measure they are a first-rate assistance package and good on the farmers eligible, but many farmers in badly drought affected areas are running out of money after feeding livestock for extended periods.

I have spoken to many good solid livestock farmers in severe drought areas who are questioning their viability to survive, and a package like the North Queensland one would make the difference between remaining as farmers or leaving the farm.

They will now have to go into the same market place to source livestock, if it ever rains, with those who have received grants.

Farmers will applaud the assistance measures for the 250 odd farmers affected in North Queensland, but will struggle to understand why it is not extended to those severely affected by long-term drought.

The federal government should take heed of the message delivered by the two Western NSW seats at the state election. Support of the coalition is not guaranteed.

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