Michael Johnsen MP, Member for Upper Hunter and Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, today joined with Federal Member for Upper Hunter, Barnaby Joyce MP, Federal Member for the New England, and with local farmers and Local Land Services (LLS) staff to announce further funding to continue the NSW Emergency Drought Relief Package, to help farmers manage the effects of the drought.
Mr Johnsen said the State’s toughest drought on record continues to bite with farmers and rural communities bearing the brunt of the crisis.
“While some regions have experienced rain during the past few months, 97 per cent of the state remains in drought, and the seasonal outlook remains bleak with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting drier than average conditions,” Mr Johnsen said.
“That is why the NSW Nationals in Government have today announced an Emergency Drought Relief package, bringing the total funding to more than $1.8 billion across the state, to further support farmers and regional communities.
“This additional support will assist our local farmers and businesses, including on-farm measures such as transport subsidies and waiving land rates, and off-farm measures to boost the local economy and support the community.
“The Nationals understand the effect this drought is having on regional economies, communities and families.
“The extension of the Emergency Drought Relief package means more assistance for primary producers, more infrastructure to provide safe and secure water supplies, and investments aimed at stimulating the local economy.
“The social and economic viability of rural and regional communities in Upper Hunter remains my priority. We are all in this together.”
The extended drought assistance measures for 2019/20 include:
- $185 million for on-farm Emergency Drought Relief Package support measures including transport cost rebates for fodder, stock and water and the waiving of annual land rates
- $36 million in funds to support rural and regional communities including mental health, sporting grants, money for pre-schools and skilled pathway opportunities
- $55 million in the Emergency Drought Relief Package for water infrastructure projects, emergency water carting, improving town drinking water, reducing water wastage and rebates for water licences.
The Nationals in Government have also established a $170 million Drought Infrastructure and Stimulus Package for regional communities.
Mr Johnsen said these off-farm measures help mitigate against the ripple effect; the long-term impact that stressful situations like drought can have on our communities.
“I understand that it’s not just the farmers who are struggling – this drought is hurting our local businesses and communities – and as your local MP, I am determined to make sure nobody gets left behind,” Mr Johnsen said.
“It’s also why we are also investing $8 million in funding to improve access to and delivery of mental health services in our community because we know the effects of the drought can extend much further than infrastructure or a dollar figure.”
For more detail on available drought support measures, visit www.droughthub.nsw.gov.au
Emergency Drought Relief package 2019-20 Overview
In response to the protracted drought and negative outlook for the season ahead, the NSW Government is further boosting its drought support package.
- Today we are announcing an extra $185 million to continue the Emergency Drought Relief package in 2019-20.
- This funding will help alleviate some of the immediate financial pressures facing our farmers and regional communities.
- It includes $70 million to continue rebates on transport costs for fodder, stock and water, up to $40,000 per eligible farm business in 2019-20.
- The subsidy can cover 50% of the full cost of freight up to a maximum of $5 per kilometre (+GST).
- For all transport cost after 1 July 2019, the maximum eligible distance limit of 1,500 kilometres no longer applies.
- We are also reducing financial pressure on farmers by waiving LLS rates, waiving fixed water costs, and waiving Farm Innovation Fund interest fees.
- As part of our election commitment to boost the Farm Innovation Fund by $350 million, to $1 billion, farmers can now borrow up to $1 million to build on-farm infrastructure, including stock containment areas.
- We have also committed an additional $36 million to support rural communities impacted by this drought – this includes funds for mental health, reducing the cost of farming, ag vehicle registration exemptions, funding for pre-schools and skilled pathway opportunities.
- Over the next financial year we’re investing up to $55 million to improve water security and infrastructure in rural and regional towns, including $15 million for emergency town water supplies in critical areas.
- In addition, the NSW Government has created a new $170 million Drought Stimulus Package to help stimulate rural and regional economies impacted by this drought.
This brings our total drought funding in support of our farmers and our regional communities to over $1.8 billion.
In response to the climatic outlook and the economic and social impact this drought is having on rural and regional communities across the state, we are extending our on-farm Emergency Drought Relief programs from 2018-19.
- This funding will help alleviate some of the immediate financial pressures facing our farmers, including:
- $70 million to continue to rebate of transport costs for fodder, stock and water, up to a cap of $40,000 in 2019-20 per farming enterprise.
- $30 million to provide a rebate of fixed charges on water licences that don’t receive an allocation
- $50 million to provide relief from all Local Land Services annual rates in 2020
- $10 million to remove payment of interest charges on Farm Innovation Fund loans for next financial year
- $7 million for exemptions for registration fees for agricultural vehicles
- $9.6 million to continue current measures to reduce the cost of farming and assist with the reducing immediate cash flow pressures – including donated fodder subsidies, and waiving apiary and wild dog border fence fees.
- $15 million for emergency water carting and related work to secure town and household water supplies – this will allow us to be responsive to urgent water supply emergencies through the year.
- In addition to continuing to support our farmers, this package will also help those in rural and regional communities impacted by drought.
- We have communities across NSW who are severely affected by this drought and are feeling the impact of a contracting economy.
- There is a ripple effect in rural communities and associated industries such as farmers, stock and station agents, cattle buyers, agricultural contractors, professional services, shops and schools.
- The long-term impact of stressful situations like drought can have a lasting effect on communities and we need to provide support for our regional communities as they suffer through this rapid onset drought.
- That is why additional funds will be directed into a support package for off-farm drought relief measures in 2019-20 to support affected communities.
- This package expands on existing drought support programs and includes:
- $5m to improve skills pathways. This will help allow farm workers to build additional skills and work in alternate jobs during times of drought and provides costs associated with attaining traineeships young unemployed people in remote areas.
- $1.15m for increased sport grants for communities. These help build resilience and increase community bonding and investment. This funding will cover 23 regional NSW electorates.
- $8.3m to support mental health measures for drought affected communities, coordination of drought and wellbeing events by 7 additional Drought Peer Support Workers, more farm-gate councillors, Aboriginal wellbeing initiatives and a Youth Drought summit.
- $5.2m for a support package for pre-school children. This allows the pre-schools to continue to run and means parents dealing with the effects of drought can still afford and access early childhood education.
Drought Stimulus Package
In addition to the Emergency Drought Relief package, the NSW Government has announced a new Drought Stimulus Package to help stimulate rural and regional economies impacted by this drought.
- $170 million funding for infrastructure works, and enhancing water security and infrastructure in rural and regional towns, including:
- water infrastructure programs
- capital investment in rural and regional activities
- advice and support to water dependent industries, such as mines and abattoirs, to help them become more water efficient.