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New transport fund announced to assist drought-affected farmers in New South Wales

Cecilia Connell, Monday April 9, 2018 - 14:20 EST
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Paddocks near Denman in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley show the impact of dry times. - ABC

A new scheme to assist drought-affected farmers in New South Wales has been unveiled today as more than a quarter of the state

The NSW Drought Transport Fund will provide up to $20,000 in low-interest loans, with a two-year interest and repayment-free period.

The fund is intended to help eligible landholders pay for farming freight costs, including water cartage, fodder transport and to shift stock to agistment.

It comes as , with recent rainfall doing little to quench the parched landscape.

More help is at hand, Government says

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said the new funding was .

"We've had $300 million already rolling out the door for drought assistance since 2015," he said.

"But some of the feedback that we've had is that they [farmers] wanted some further assistance.

"We've got over 25 per cent of the state now that's moved into drought, or approaching drought.

"People need to make decisions leading up to winter because once it cools off too much, we won't get any pasture growth."

Mr Blair said today's announcement was not a backdown on the current drought policy, which aims to better prepare farm businesses for dry times over the long-term, rather than provide short-term relief.

"We don't have the old system where we used to have drought declarations that then would lead to certain assistance packages," he said.

"At a state level, we've had our fund open since 2015 to look at preventative measures.

"This is just an extension of what we've already been doing and a tweaking of the program that we've had in place.

"Now that we've got more of the state that's slipped into drought, or approaching the drought category, this is just making sure that we're as responsive as possible, particularly as that window is closing."

Helping farmers 'get over the hump'

According to Bureau of Meteorology mapping, parts of the Upper Hunter district are experiencing a one in 20-year rainfall deficiency.

The electorate's state Nationals MP Michael Johnsen said the new fund would help farmers get over the hump.

"It is a good outcome. It's not everything that farmers need or not what they called for, but it goes a long way to providing that short-term assistance," he said.

"I'm urging transport companies not to take advantage of this particular system because they're only hurting farmers, and that's not the intent nor in the spirit of what the assistance is all about."



Farmers worried funding may not be enough

While farmers across New South Wales have welcomed the move, some worry that the dollar figure may not be enough.

Long-time Merriwa farmer Ron Campbell said he was not sure how far the money would stretch.

"I fear that it is not sufficient. That's not being greedy either," he said.

"But look at the practical side. If you have to transport your stock, with this eastern side of Australia being in drought they'll probably have to go much, much further in order to find feed.

"The amount that's available will be eaten up very, very quickly."

Weilmoringle landholder in the state's far west, Ed Fessey, has called for a more comprehensive policy overall.

"This is probably a bit late for most of us. We've sort of moved on and dealt with it in other ways," he said.

"We live in a highly variable climate. We've got to adapt, we've got to be appropriately informed and we've also got to have policy that faces reality with the diversity of the climate that we live in.

"There's no one-shot thing. This will help some at this particular time, but others that have gone past that point.

"I think that we really need to get back to that jointly discovered, well-understood and well-discussed policy that we can move forward on."


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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