QLD farmers to receive finance boost

By: Carene Chong

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The Federal Government has today pledged an extra $7 million to support drought stricken farmers in Queensland and also announced a reallocation of the Farm Finance funds unveiled earlier this year.

QLD farmers to receive finance boost
QLD, VIC and NSW are set to benefit from the Federal Government's Farm Finance boost and rellocation.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says Queensland farmers are given the additional support because of high debt levels brought on by a range of factors such as drought.

"This will supplement the Queensland Government’s existing emergency water rebate and allow the delivery of further watering points around drought affected properties," he says.

"I am also discussing with the New South Wales Government whether they intend to make available similar measures to Queensland and have earmarked $3 million to contribute to those measures should they be implemented."

In addition to the extra funding, Joyce also announced a reallocation of the Farm Finance concessional loan funds which was initially unveiled by former Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon in April this year.

Joyce says the reallocation better reflects the number of farm businesses in each jurisdiction and to ensure the funds were available to farmers on areas of greatest need by reason of current seasonal conditions.

"By reallocating funds, we are also creating a reserve fund in the 2014-2015 year of the loans scheme which will allow the Australian Government to respond to emerging issues and put the funds where they are most needed at the time," he says.

The reallocation of Farm Finance funding means Queensland will have $50 million in 2013-14 and $30 million in 2014-15.

New South Wales and Victoria will have $40 million in 2013-14 and $30 million in 2014-15.

South Australia and Western Australia will have $25 million for both years, while the Northern Territory and Tasmania will have $15 million for both years.

"I encourage farming families to apply to their respective state delivery agency for a concessional loan, especially those in drought affected areas," Joyce says.

"At a concessional rate of 4.5 per cent for amounts up to $650,000 and $1 million for Queensland this should give a substantial financial benefit to participants," he says.

So far, only three states – Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales have signed up with the Federal Government to offer the Farm Finance packages in their respective states.

"Those states with yet to be finalised agreements will be anxious," Joyce says.

"I made a commitment to review the scheme to better target this assistance and ensure that it’s effective, not just for one jurisdiction but across the country once all these agreements are in place."

Joyce adds he is working hard to ensure access to assistance measures is not blocked by red tape.

Peak Australian famers' body National Farmers Federation (NFF) has welcomed the news with caution, saying improved flexibility on the Government’s part is sensible but shuffling funds not the right answer.

NFF President Duncan Fraser says new drought policy measures should be provided from new allocations and not by reducing the capacity of existing measures within the agriculture portfolio.

"Having said that, we recognise that the current seasonal conditions in the majority of Queensland, Northern New South Wales and patches of the Northern Territory are such that we need to have flexible measures to ensure that famers in these regions are not left without support," he says.

Fraser adds the Government needs to ensure the loans are readily accessible when assistance is needed.

"What we don’t want is to have measures available and no one be able to use them," he says.

"There needs to be improved flexibility in the approach by governments to make sure that this funding hits the ground and is not tied up by administrative arrangements."

Fraser says while the steps taken are sensible, there is still significant work ahead for State and Federal Governments to finalise drought policy reform.

"The NFF and its members will be working closely with respective governments to see this important work continue," he says.

Find out more about the Farm Finance loans and how to apply on the Department of Agriculture website.

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