A new drought package with more than $355m extra in assistance has been announced by the NSW Government today including fees waived, extra fodder transport subsidies and a huge boost to the Farm Innovation Fund (FIF).
At a cost of $350 million, the NSW Government will top up the existing FIF, with low-interest loans of up to $1 million to help farmers survive the drought (an increase of $250,000 per loan). This is in line with its election promise.
The loans will be provided for eligible projects that include the "construction of fodder storage facilities (silos, hay sheds), containment lots and de-silting of water storages".
"All existing FIF customers and applicants who submit an application before 30 June 2020 will have interest charges for FY2019-20 waived," the government announced in Coolamon.
The Government has also promised to cut red-tape so that anyone currently receiving drought assistance does not need to go through rigorous paperwork again to access the new funds or loans.
"This package is all about building drought resilience for our farmers and reducing cost of living pressures during this difficult time," NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said.
"Drought is an inevitable part of living on a dry continent likes ours. That's why it's critical we give farmers the right tools to not only make it through this drought but also prepare for the next dry spell," Mr Marshall said.
The total amount of new drought assistance money announced today at Coolamon is about $355 million.
The Government has also announced it will reduce fees and charges, amounting to $100 million, that includes waiving Local Land Services (LLS) rates ($50 million), fixed water charges in rural and regional areas ($30 million), waiving FIF interest fees ($10 million) as well as apiary and wild dog border fence fees ($10 million).
There will also be another $70 million for transport subsidies.
"The NSW Government will offer a transport subsidy of up to $40,000 per eligible farm business," the Government said in its release, as part of a pre-budget announcement. "The subsidy can cover 50 per cent of the full cost of freight up to a maximum of $5 per kilometre (+GST). This would assist a cattle farmer in Dubbo, for example, to purchase a truck-load of hay from outside Bordertown, South Australia."
"With ongoing dry conditions landholders are having to look further afield to source much needed fodder to keep their stocks alive. This can be an expensive exercise and that's why the NSW Government is tipping in cash to reduce the cost for farmers," Mr Marshall said.
The government will also provide $15 million for emergency water carting.
"Emergency relief is available to Local Water Utilities towards the cost of water carting or water supply works during periods of emergency," it said.
The Government promised there will be no new paperwork for people who have already accessed drought assistance and no minimum or maximum distance caps on transport subsidy claims.
"I've talked to countless farmers about what's working and what's not working in the current package and that's why we've made a number of changes to our assistance measures to ensure they're having the maximum impact," Mr Marshall said.
"A key focus has been streamlining the application process for farmers to take the difficulty out of accessing the assistance they need.
"With conditions as tough as they are, farmers simply don't have the time to be filling out duplicative piles of paperwork."
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Regional NSW Minister John Barilaro also announced the Government will boost regional infrastructure to fast-track projects,and emergency work for town water supplies as several of the state's rivers and dams run dry.
- $170 million has been reserved in Budget funding will go towards for a special purpose Drought Infrastructure Package to fast-track regional infrastructure projects, including:
- Up to $120 million to fast track identified major infrastructure projects;$30 million on new groundwater supply for Dubbo;$8.23 million construction of second water storage at Nyngan$2.2 million to upgrade augment bore water supply at Coonabarabran;$2 million towards Narromine water security and water quality project;$2 million for Albert Priest Channel critical maintenance (Nyngan and Cobar); and
- $1.97 million towards the Coolamon Industrial Estate development.
Ms Berejiklian said :"There's nothing like an announcement to bring some rain, we're pleased there's been some rain overnight but we know it's not enough."
"In this budget, due in just a number of days they'll be an extra $355 million on top of the $400 million we already announced in the election campaign," she said.
"The total drought package is now $1.8 billion, this is far and away more than any government has contributed before.
"We know that the drought has gone well beyond the farm gate, it's affecting local communities, local businesses, local jobs but this support we're providing local communities ensures that we can continue the jobs growth in other areas but also support the farming community by providing this vital infrastructure."
Regional NSW Minister and Deputy Premier John Barilaro said "The best drought package would be rain, in the meantime the government has always said that it will stand by our farmers,"
On the money for infrastructure, he said "$45 million towards water projects, $125 million towards infrastructure on the ground to unlock opportunities in the community and stimulate local economies."
"We're working on pipelines, bores, dams, reservoirs, carting water, whatever it takes, this government will stand hand in hand with those communities so we don't run out of water."
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said "we can't make it rain but we can make investments to help farmers in our regional and rural communities to get through this drought."
"This money is not a hand out, it's a handshake with our farmers who are at the heart of this year's budget," he said.
"We're diversifying local economies so we can future proof our economies when there's during down turns in agriculture."
"I've just come back from Cobar, Lightning Ridge from Bourke with the Deputy Premier hearing first hand, the Deputy Premier and Premier have been out in regional NSW a lot."
Mr Marshall said "recognising the fact that this drought has bit harder and gone on longer than any of us anticipated or wanted we're actually removing the kilometre limit on transport subsidies, so that farmer's can bring in fodder from as far away as Western Australia and still receive the full 50% subsidy."
"The most important part of this package from a farmer's perspective is the fact that we're not requiring farmers who have already accessed assistance to fill out any more application forms."
"We've already assisted nearly 140,000 farmers across the state."
"We've already got their details, we don't want them to spend their hours filling out paperwork when they're already stretched and they're busting their guts feeding cattle and sheep every morning."
"Farmer's can borrow up to $1 million to undertake work on their property, locked in at an interest rate of 2.5% for a period of 20 years, you will not find a financial institution that will do that for you."
"They can also access a $50,000 interest free loan paid off over seven years, they don't pay anything for the first two years."
_ with Olivia Calver