Government announces drought assistance package
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce have today announced details of the Abbott Government’s drought assistance package to support affected farmers.
There has been growing pressure on the Government to provide additional support as drought worsens in parts of rural Australia. According to the Drought Statement issued by the Bureau of Meterology this month, most of Queensland and New South Wales inland of the Great Dividing Range as well as much of South Australia have received less than 70% of their long-term average rainfall for the 22 month period (to January 2014), with a substantial area having received less than half the average for the period.
The package of additional assistance announced this morning includes:
- More generous criteria for accessing income support to farmers will be put in place through an Interim Farm Household Allowance (FHA) from 3 March 2014. The Interim FHA will be available until the permanent FHA is implemented on 1 July 2014;
- Up to $280 million in Drought Concessional Loans will be available to eligible drought-affected farm businesses for debt restructuring, operating expenses and drought recovery activities;
- $12 million in additional funding for water-related infrastructure rebates for drought affected farmers in New South Wales and Queensland.
- $10 million in assistance will be available through local natural resource management organisations to help reduce the impacts of wild dogs and other pest animals and manage total grazing pressure in drought affected regions.
- $10.7 million will help increase access to social and mental health support services in communities affected by the drought.