Prime Minister the Hon. Tony Abbott MP, Deputy Prime Minister the Hon. Warren Truss MP and Minister for Agriculture the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, have today announced details of much needed drought assistance for regional communities and farmers.
Rural communities suffering through extreme drought will be eligible for Commonwealth assistance as part of a new $333 million support package.
Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton represents over one third of rural and regional communities in New South Wales along with the thousands of farmers in these areas.
Mr Coulton has seen first-hand the devastation that the drought brings to not only farmers but also the regional communities surrounding them.
“Much of my electorate is still in the grip of one of the worst droughts in history and farmers are battling to stay on the land” he said.
Mr Coulton believes that this support package is an acknowledgment of the difficulties being experienced by farmers and by the communities they help to sustain.
“It is crucial that we provide assistance to the rural and regional communities affected by drought not only for the sake of the communities themselves, but also for the sake of our nation and Australia’s agriculture sector” Mr Coulton said.
In recognition of the drought’s effects on farming businesses and regional communities, the Commonwealth Government will provide:
- $35 million for shovel-ready, local infrastructure and employment projects. Funding will be targeted at projects that offer the greatest potential to stimulate local spending, use local resources and provide lasting benefit to the community.
- $25.8 million for programmes to manage pest animals and weeds in drought-affected areas. This measure will provide work for rural contractors while assisting landowners to deal with the impact of feral animals on livestock and pasture.
- $20 million to expand existing social and community support programmes. This additional funding will improve access to mental health support and counselling services for drought-affected families and communities.
- $1.8 million to fund additional rural financial counsellors in drought-affected areas.
- $250 million in 201516 to continue access to existing drought specific concessional loans schemes.
These measures build upon existing Commonwealth support to farmers experiencing hardship, such the Farm Household Allowance, which is currently flowing to over 4,800 farmers or their partners.
Over the past two years the Commonwealth has provided around $190 million to support drought-stricken farmers and approved $270 million in concessional loans to 531 farm businesses.
Mr Coulton is looking forward to the announcement of further measures to support farmers who are preparing themselves for the damaging effects of drought that will be announced in the forthcoming Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.
“The Commonwealth Government is providing much needed support to the farmers and regional communities currently affected by drought, but we still have a long way to go to effectively deal with all of the difficulties facing these farmers and regional communities right now” he said.
For information on the new drought support measures go to www.agriculture.gov.au/drought.