The state government has announced a $500 million emergency drought relief package, which doubles the support available to farmers.
The package will make available subsidies of up to 50 per cent for the transport of fodder and water for livestock; or to get livestock to pasture, slaughter or sale.
It appears these subsidies will be capped at $20,000 per farm business, and will also be back-dated to January 1.
Another key measure is the waiving of Local Land Services annual rates, water licence fixed charges, registration costs for class one agricultural vehicles, and interest on existing Farm Innovation Fund loans.
The NSW Rural Assistance Authority will begin processing applications from Monday.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government had “listened to farmers throughout NSW who have told me they urgently need help” with 99 per cent of the state now in drought.
“To date we have already committed $584 million in drought support, most of which is focused on preparation for drought conditions,” she said.
“However, conditions are now so dire that further support is needed to address the more immediate needs for farmers and their communities until the drought breaks.”
‘We value you’
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, John Barilaro, said the drought had quickly worsened across the state in the past two months.
“We said we would constantly reassess the conditions and relief measures, and the fact we’ve now increased our drought relief package to over $1 billion is a reflection of how serious this drought is, and how much we value the health and wellbeing of our farming and regional communities,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Importantly, we have backdated this relief measure to the start of the year when the drought intensified, especially in the Upper Hunter and Western NSW.
“This means eligible farmers who made the decision to destock earlier this year will still benefit from this new relief package.”
The drought has been described as a “perfect storm”.
It has been one of the driest periods on record, meaning failed or never-planted crops for livestock feed, as well as severe shortages of dam and household water.
Dwindling local supplies of fodder have been forcing farmers to freight it in from interstate, with transport fees generally at least doubling the cost.
The government is putting $190 million into the drought transport subsidies.
Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said the government was committed to “standing side by side with farmers during the worsening drought”.
“We know many families are also having to bring in water for domestic use, which is why we have also set aside additional funding for this essential service.
“The package we have has to be fair, it has to be equitable and it has to be able to be adapted to all types of farming businesses right across NSW.”
For more information on the NSW Government’s emergency drought relief package visit www.droughthub.nsw.gov.au
At a glance
The three major elements of the package are:
- Approximately $190 million for Drought Transport Subsidies
- Approximately $100 million for cutting the cost of farming fees and charges – by waiving Local Land Services rates, waiving fixed water charges in rural and regional areas, and waiving class one agricultural vehicle registration costs, among other initiatives, and
- $150 million to bolster the Farm Innovation Fund (FIF) infrastructure program.
The package also includes funding for:
- Counselling and mental health
- Critical services in regional communities including transporting water and drought related road upgrades and repairs;
- Animal welfare and stock disposal.