NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced an additional $500 million in emergency funding to help drought-affected farmers on Monday. The announcement came after the government has been criticised, including at last week’s NSW Farmers Annual Conference in Sydney, for not doing enough.
With 99% of the state now in drought, the new support measures respond to the compounding effects of drought and their impact on people, business and communities, and builds on the existing NSW Government Drought Strategy, taking the overall drought response to $1.1 billion.
The Emergency Relief Package includes $190 million for the introduction of transport subsidies of up to $20,000 to help cover the cost of transporting fodder and water. Transport subsidies will be back-dated for expenses incurred since January.
The NSW Government has waived Local Land Services rates, fixed water charges and class-one agricultural vehicle registration costs.
NSW’s Farm Innovation Fund — which helps farmers improve their infrastructure to better deal with weather fluctuations — has also been boosted by $150 million as part of the package. The Premier said the additional funding
would help farmers who had faced an “unforgivably dry winter”.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said the package would assist farmers who had been forced to source fodder from interstate as local supplies diminished during a drier than expected winter. The NSW Farmers’ Association welcomed the “generous” package but stressed the importance of it being easily accessible.
Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party Member for Orange, Philip Donato MP responded to the announcement saying:
“Well, it’s about bloody time. I have been calling on this National Liberal Government all year to introduce freight subsidies for our struggling farmers who are enduring the worst drought this century. “It’s better late than never. Thank goodness they are offering up to $20,000 in 50% freight subsidies for each eligible farming business for transport of fodder, water and stock.
As part of the emergency funding, farmers will also be eligible for waivers on Local Land Services annual rates, fixed charges on water licences, registration costs for class-one agricultural vehicles, and interest on existing Farm Innovation Fund loans.
The package also includes funding for counselling and mental health services, drought-related road upgrades and animal welfare and stock disposal. The NSW Rural Assistance Authority will begin processing applications from Monday.
Below average rainfall since April 2017 has been exacerbated by warm, dry weather, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. September 2017 was the driest September on record. The three-month outlook to October does not look much better for farmers, with more warm and dry conditions predicted. Parts of NSW already experience less than one per cent soil moisture content. (Sources: ABC Rural, News.com.au and own reporting)