The Federal government has made it easier for drought-stricken Riverina farmers to claim household cash assistance.
Riverina MP Michael McCormack said, as a member of a multi-generational farming family, he understand how tough life could be as a primary producer.
“Agriculture is a very big part of the Riverina and Central West and we will make sure we will continue to closely monitor make sure we certainly continue to have the farmers' back,” he said.
On Sunday, the federal government announced its third round of additional drought aid, taking the total to $1.8 billion.
Primary producers can now immediately deduct the cost of fodder storage assets.
Low-interest loans have doubled to $2 million maximum per farm.
Riverina MP Michael McCormack said the government had “bolstered our processing staffing levels” to allow Farm Household Assistance claims over the phone and had simplified the online claims process with fewer documents required.
The difficulty in accessing Farm Household Assistance, a form of cash payment through Centrelink, has been a common complaint from drought affected farm families.
Cootamundra-Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister said the region had not been hit as hard as areas further west but the farmers appreciated the support.
“The local traders suffer as well as when the farmers aren’t earning, they don’t spend,” he said.
“I think the government needs to look at that too as some businesses are also hit hard during the drought.”
Cr McAlister said once the drought breaks, “the stretch is not over” in terms of financial and mental stress.
“A lot of people have been selling their young steers and heifers for not a lot of money when they could be next year’s income at $1000 more per head,” he said.
“Once it rains, it doesn’t put money straight back in the bank account.
Cr McAlister said the government should look at long-term support for farms and businesses.
Hilltops mayor Brian Ingram welcomed the new programs.
“When the farmers do it tough, the towns start doing it tough as the money stops going around,” he said.
Cr Ingram said a lot of feed had been drought into the district, taking away a lot of money from farmers’ bottom lines.
“The federal government left it until late to start bringing this in; they were sitting back thinking it would rain in July and that didn’t pay off,” he said.
“Things are worse now and the struggle is so much harder. If they had got involved sooner, it would have been of more benefit.”