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NSW Government announce new $310 million drought support package as farmers struggle 'for at least another year'

By Amelia Bernasconi and Lucy Thackray, Tuesday June 30, 2020 - 20:38 EST
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Many farmers have been able to buy new stock or bring their stock home from agistment after recent rain. - ABC

Just six months ago, the entirety of New South Wales was drought-declared, but now some farmers are faced with an abundance of feed, ready for livestock to return.

But with saleyard prices the strongest in years, hopeful restockers have been left with few options and dry bank accounts.

From today, the NSW Government will extend drought support measures to include those navigating the recovery phase.

Under the $310 million package released today, the value of Drought Assistance Fund loans will double and be available to those looking to restock their properties.

"Farmers can access up to $100,000 interest-free, pay nothing for the first two years and then payable back over the next five years," said Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall.

"They can use funding from that scheme for the first time to actually fund the purchase of restockers, or, in the case of croppers, to buy seed, implements, get inputs onto their properties, whatever they need for their farming operations.

"We've adjusted or expanded the Drought Transport Subsidy; by far and away the most popular part of the program that we've had for the last 18 months.

"We've extended that to allow farmers to claim the 50 per cent freight rebate on the transport of restockers from the point of sale to their property — that's traditionally always been excluded from the scheme."

Funding will also continue under the Drought Transport Subsidy for feed and water cartage, as well as moving livestock off-farm for agistment, sale or slaughter, and for cropping farmers to source chemicals, seeds and other inputs.

Farmers ready to hit the application papers again

Geurie farmer Callie Taylor almost completely destocked and has been struggling to restock with record cattle prices.

She will be one of many to take up the transport subsidy.

"If we buy interstate, we're able to buy stock at much better price and then there's the margin to hopefully make some money out of them," Ms Taylor said.

"When I was buying I had to weigh up; do I buy the cattle for far more money locally, or pay for stock to travel? So a transport subsidy would help enormously."

Ms Taylor said she would not be applying for the loans but said they could be beneficial for those in the right circumstances.

"I think if people are willing to get a loan, that's wonderful," she said.

"Stock prices are so high at the moment; it's a long time before you get a return. You have to hope the market maintains.

"I wouldn't borrow money — I find it a bit scary."

The cattlewoman says it is vital that government assistance continues after farmers receive rain.

"A year ago we were just trying to survive, and that was using up every ounce of energy you have," Ms Taylor said.

"Hope keeps you going.

"The drought support has to continue because the income isn't coming for at least another year.

Far corners of the state still suffering

Much of the state's South East region has missed out on drought-breaking rains and has still been declared as in 'intense drought' by the Department of Primary Industries.

Parts of the far-west and north-eastern NSW up to the Queensland border is also still enduring a harsh drought.

Minister Marshall said all current drought support programs would continue.

"There might be other governments, like the Commonwealth, that seemingly have forgotten about drought or are withdrawing their support to continue a successful program like the water infrastructure rebate," he said.

"We're not abandoning you … we're going to stick by you and continue to support you."


© ABC 2020

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