Federal Government drought support measures announced today will deliver much needed economic stimulus for farm-dependent communities and small businesses doing it tough as they brace for another long, hot summer.
The Government’s latest drought package, worth $709 million in direct support, includes no-interest periods for drought loans for farmers and now importantly for small businesses, further support for rural schools and remote students, and economic stimulus for regional communities.
AgForce General President Georgie Somerset said that regional Queensland would welcome any and all assistance available from all levels of Government as the drought showed no signs of easing.
“While there has been some rainfall in certain parts of Queensland recently, it has been nowhere near enough to provide any real relief for farmers and communities besieged by this crippling drought,” Mrs Somerset said.
“That’s why we’re joining the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) in calling for the initiatives announced in the package today and previously to reach the people who need it as quickly as possible, so that they can survive the summer ahead.
“Countless farming families won’t be able to plant a summer crop this season, others can’t afford to feed their livestock, while businesses in farming communities continue to close at an alarming rate.
“Many farming families have been without any real cash flow for consecutive years now, and if they can’t spend in the towns where they live, everyone in the area suffers and communities wither.
“The Government’s decision to redirect $200 million into a Building Better Regions Fund drought round to support new projects that deliver social and economic benefits to drought-affected communities is therefore vital.
“As is the announcement of $15 million to support schools and childcare facilities facing financial hardship from ongoing drought conditions, including fee concessions for boarding students.”
Mrs Somerset said that while the drought stretched into an eighth consecutive year for some farmers, AgForce was also looking for the Queensland State Government to do more.
“AgForce wrote to the Premier’s office weeks ago seeking to have talks with the State Government to secure a commitment to increase the amount of drought assistance available, including funding local government to provide rates relief.
“It has been disappointing that it has taken so long to engage on such an important issue, but today we were advised we will be meeting with Premier Palaszczuk mid-next week to discuss further drought relief measures.
“We now look forward to joining them at the decision-making table to discuss a range of policy measures we’d like implemented to help provide additional support for farming families living through this terrible drought.”
“The support to date has been welcome and Governments at all levels must monitor changing conditions and promptly adjust their levels of assistance accordingly to meet the needs of affected Queenslanders.”