Hand up for drought stricken farmers


North Queensland based Senator Ian Macdonald welcomed the announcement of government assistance for farmers in the North struggling with crippling drought.

The new arrangements, announced by the Prime Minister today, will be a welcome shot in the arm for farmers across Queensland when they are rolled out in June, Senator Macdonald said.

He said that it would take until June for arrangements to be made with the States and Territories who would be administering the program, which would be fully funded by the Commonwealth.

In North Queensland, where the drought has hit very hard, farmers will be better able to weather adversity under the new arrangements for government concessional loans and particularly the new criteria for assessing income support and the extra money for pest management, a problem which has worsened considerably in this drought.

I am disappointed, however, that no allowance has been made for North Queensland graziers who started this drought on the back foot because of the then governments fatal and ill-thought-out decision to stop the live cattle trade in 2011.

This meant that overnight, North Queensland cattle farmers businesses were shut down by the government. Their business plans, their plans for managing bad times, their plans for supporting their families, were smashed.

So when this terrible drought followed immediately, they were in no position to deal with it. I had hoped that the drought package would recognise that North Queensland farmers were in a worse position because of a government decision.

However, I recognise that we are living in difficult economic times and welcome the package as a positive for drought-affected farmers.

The battle to redress the wrongs of the live cattle ban will be a fight for another day, Senator Macdonald said.

The drought package includes:

    • More generous criteria for accessing income support will be made available to farmers from 3 March 2014 instead of 1 July 2014.

    • Drought Concessional Loans totalling $280m will be allocated to give eligible farm businesses the resources to recover from the effects of drought.

    • To assist drought affected farms to access water, $12m will be added to existing emergency water infrastructure schemes, including supplementing those in NSW and Queensland.

  • $10m in assistance will be available for pest management in drought affected areas.$10.7m will help increase access to social and mental health services in communities affected by this drought
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