NSW Farmers calls for more action, less talk

Additional Federal Government drought support must be rolled out immediately, according to NSW Farmers. 

NSW Farmers Vice President Chris Groves said farmers are destocking, facing failed crops and desperately looking for water to maintain permanent plantings. 

“Many have no or little income to service their loans and pay standing charges, including Local Government Rates,” Mr Grove said. 

“Coupled with the Bureau of Meteorology’s forecasts of little or no rain, it means farmers from the coast to the State’s borders are facing ongoing challenges and having to make hard decisions.”

NSW Farmers has welcomed the Federal cash injections through the Drought Community Support Initiative and the funding to Councils for infrastructure, which includes Kyogle, Temora and Murray in NSW. 

“Again, this drought relief must commence immediately to allow Councils to make the decision about how this funding will best support their communities.”

“The Federal Government has fallen behind in terms of providing direct drought relief, with their focus being on low interest loan options.”

Mr Groves said the Association does welcome moves to streamline the application process for the Farm Household Allowance (FHA). 

“Any changes that make the FHA quicker and easier to access is good news. More and more farm businesses will be making applications and Centrelink must step up to ensure that their customer facing staff and assessment officers deliver service that is both timely and recognises the pressure that farmers are facing.” 

To support those farmers applying for the FHA and other government support measures, Federal Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie has also announced a $740,000 injection for the Rural Financial Counselling Service as part of the new package. 

“The Prime Minister says this new package is additional to the $7 billion commitment, but there is scant detail about how and where this funding has been delivered to date, and importantly how the funding has supported farmers. 

“Our members are telling us that while they welcome the opportunity to access concessional loans, the administration and time lags mean delays in infrastructure delivery. Many farm businesses are simply unable to take on extra debt.”

“We recognises that government drought response is a shared effort between farmers, local, State and the Commonwealth. The NSW Government has been proactive and delivered nearly $2 billion in drought support to date.

Mr Groves said NSW farmers is calling for additional Federal funding to LGAs for water carting and to offset the cost of rate rebates for cash-strapped farmers and agriculture dependent local businesses, consideration of farm-exit packages, and subsidies to maintain on-farm employment. 

Date: Friday 27 September 2019 
Media Contact:  Michael Burt  | 0428 228 988 | burtm@nswfarmers.org.au