Drought help getting to farmers: Joyce

21 Nov, 2014 01:00 AM
Barnaby Joyce at St George drought crisis meeting.
I urge any farming family or farm business not to self assess their eligibility
Barnaby Joyce at St George drought crisis meeting.

AGRICULTURE Minister Barnaby Joyce says the $320 million drought package containing tailored drought support programs, combined with the $420 million Farm Finance concessional loan scheme, means farmers have access to significant support as drought and dry conditions bite deeper.

In a statement this week, he said more than 4200 farmers are better able to pay their household bills and already 89 farm businesses are managing their debt and day-to-day expenses on an improved footing as a result of the Coalition government’s drought package.

“Back in February, when the Prime Minister and I announced this national package, there were no specific support measures in place to assist farmers experiencing drought,” he said.

“In fact, when we came to office, not only was there no targeted drought assistance in place, there were only eight Farm Finance concessional loans approved and only 367 farming families receiving income support on the basis of financial hardship.

“Under Labor, their income support program was limited to 12 months and had an extremely restrictive assets test.

“When we came to government it was clear that our farmers would need a greater level of support and we have addressed this.

“This government moved to increase the net assets test and extend payments to a period of up to 36 months in total.”

Mr Joyce said proof that the Coalition government’s policies are working can be seen in the “considerable increase” in people accessing income support, concessional loans and other support services.

“I am proud that the measures the Prime Minister and I announced 10 months ago are helping those that they were designed to help,” he said.

The government said its assistance is reaching farming families and farm businesses in need with:

  • Over $53.8 million worth of drought concessional loans already approved (as at October 31, 2014);
  • Over $152 million worth of Farm Finance concessional loans approved (as at September 30, 2014);
  • 4210 farmers and their partners receiving Farm Household Allowance (as at November 7);
  • With an additional $3.5 million announced today, $14.2 million has now been committed for enhanced social support services across some of the hardest hit areas in New South Wales and Queensland. More than 700 people have accessed direct mental health support, over 8000 people have attended community events and almost 200 referrals to other services have been made;
  • $22 million has been allocated for vital emergency water infrastructure with funds provided to New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia;
  • $10 million allocated to improve pest management efforts across rural Australia, again with funds provided to New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
  • Helping farming families

    Mr Joyce said the government was committed to making sure farming families and farm businesses get the assistance they need so that agriculture can continue to make its important contribution to Australia now and into the future.

    “Our farming families feed and clothe us – and many others around the world,” he said.

    “We need to make sure that we help viable farm businesses through conditions that are now, in some parts of Australia, equivalent to a one in 100-year drought event.

    “We also need to make sure we give those farming families that are struggling to make ends meet help to put food on the table.

    “These farmers can’t just up and get a job in town because, despite little or no income, they are working day and night to keep their remaining stock alive.

    “While Labor sits back and criticises, the Coalition is delivering a well-designed and targeted drought package that is reaching farming families in need,” he said.

    “I am fully aware that the drought conditions continue to deepen and therefore we continue to look at options to better assist those most in need into the future.

    “I urge any farming family or farm business not to self assess their eligibility for any of the measures that are now available and to talk to an expert such as their local Rural Financial Counselling Service or regional drought co-ordinator, or call the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm local time).

    “Minister for Human Services Marise Payne and I have successfully reduced the number of forms required and we will continue to look for options to streamline the application process wherever possible.

    “The online claim form is also able to pre-populate where a person’s information has previously been recorded.”

    Colin Bettles

    Colin Bettles

    is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
    Date: Newest first | Oldest first


    tom campbell
    21/11/2014 3:54:18 AM

    Bushie Bill
    21/11/2014 6:06:51 AM

    Why should it be low interest? If you cannot pay market rates, your business is not viable or sustainable.
    Frank Blunt
    21/11/2014 6:16:20 AM

    Why indeed, billy boy. Because the Govt is a little more switched on than you and don't like the idea of eating imported food. Duh.
    Rob Moore
    21/11/2014 6:45:11 AM

    Tom- as Errol Brumpton told us (nearby) -he has been feeding his sheep for 1000 days straight. I fought like buggery right up to that crisis meeting above and actually had 10 mins speaking to introduce my PPP idea ( positive interest there). We only got a 3 in break then nothing much since. How much can a koala bear?? Opened the gates and zipped up the bank account as took a $600K in 12months. Could have rained but it hasn't and staring at the greatest smash of my dismal career- 1100 will sit down under a tree and not have energy to get up These are young angus EU 400 on first joining...cont
    Rob Moore
    21/11/2014 6:51:32 AM

    (cont) The meat moguls -a year ago I contacted them all to see what I should do regarding their future supply. I said that unless they paid me enough to buy feed for the 1000 head of young cattle that I had given then- well don't expect any more in the future. So it's groundhog day just when we have promised the world massive out put and supply. Sorry if I sound a bit cynical BUT I am furious at being forced into this situation.........but what else can I do? Bushie Dill - get out of the latte shop and come and show me the way!
    21/11/2014 7:26:06 AM

    So you have done good Barny, and all is well in the Bush?
    21/11/2014 8:16:10 AM

    They actually tightened up the off farm income test by getting rid of the means to offset it against on farm losses. I cannot get any assistance because my wife works off farm, while I employ the odd worker to help me because she isn't here. So she pays tax, the staff I employ pay tax but I cannot get any assistance. If my wife worked on farm with me, she wouldn't pay tax, I wouldn't employ outside workers who wouldn't be paying as much tax but we could get assistance. This is completely WRONG and makes you wonder what sort of Govt DOESN"T want people to work off farm.
    Bushie Bill
    21/11/2014 10:17:55 AM

    So, Frankie NotSharp, the government has always clearly and consistently demonstrated, through its behiour, that it doesn't 'like the idea of eating imported food"?
    21/11/2014 12:53:17 PM

    Bushie , I recommend U go to the movies and and see Interstellar. In it U will see the lengths people will go to, to ensure they have food. U may even broaden your consciousness to the fact that farmers are special and society needs to recognise their importance at whatever cost. Then U can return to your usual programming of Peter sellers whilst consuming your iced vovos
    tom campbell
    22/11/2014 6:27:57 PM

    rob moore, main thing don't give up every day brings us closer to rain. If ag is to be a main stay for the economy QUEENSLAND needs you and others like you.
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