Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce will be putting together a package of drought assistance for farmers in NSW and Queensland to take to Cabinet during the next few weeks.
The federal Minister and federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, met with farmers on their properties across the north-west to discuss worsening drought conditions.
In addition Mr Joyce and Mr Coulton met with the Bourke Shire mayor Andrew Lewis, Brewarrina Shire mayor Matthew Slacksmith, Walgett Shire general manager Don Ramsland and more than 100 landholders at the Lightning Ridge Bowling Club to discuss the drought.
Mr Joyce said the opportunity to talk with people directly affected by drought was one he was glad to have.
“There are many farmers, and their families, who are doing it tough and facing challenging circumstances in many regions across Australia; not least the north-west,” Mr Joyce said.
Mr Joyce told the meeting: “I want to know what you want, I want your ideas not the government’s ideas. The Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott wants to know what you want”.
There were suggestions of compensation required right now for fodder transport, water and interest rate subsidies.
Help was needed for children who were away at boarding school, some children had been brought home as there wasn’t any money left for school fees.
One suggestion was for tax losses to be traded off with bank loans.
One farmer suggested subsidies for selling off their stock for half price, covering the shortfall of the price he should have got.
There were many suggestions from the farmers for help and Mr Joyce thanked the farmers for their ideas to present to Cabinet.
The family farm is a central plank of our national economy and we need to make sure viable farmers have the chance to both prepare for and then survive droughts.
Farmers still have to work and live during a drought, and some have to work harder feeding stock and carting water than they do in a good season. The problem is they don’t get paid.
People should not forget that there are assistance measures available to farmers now that are not confined to drought and do not require a drought declaration to be accessed.
Mr Coulton said Mr Joyce had a sound understanding of the severity of conditions and the difficulties farmers were facing. He said he welcomed the Agriculture Minister’s visit to the Parkes electorate.
“It is important that the minister got to speak to landholders on the ground,’’ he said.
Drought conditions have been biting for some time across the north-west of the electorate. Things are tough for a lot of people.
The lack of rain during the past couple of years, with two years of flooding prior to that and the millennium drought, have all compounded and added to the seriousness of the situation.
Many farmers are feeding grain and hay to their cattle every day with many graziers de-stocking back to core breeding stock. These landholders are very good at what they do and have undertaken extensive work to prepare for drought but after 18 months it becomes extremely difficult to cope.
Businesses such as stock and station agents, spraying contractors and local businesses require help during drought or they disappear, along with the next generation of rural Aussies.
Mr Joyce was presented with suggestions including tax incentives for capital expenditure on drought preparedness measures, interest rate subsidies for viable farming operations and the introduction of farm household allowances immediately, rather than in July 2014. Without further assistance people will be having trouble putting food on the table.
During the last drought there was $420 billion produced by communities receiving $4b from the federal government (for drought support).
For more information about current farmer support measures go to: http://www.daff.gov.au/
o Farmers Gerard O’Brien, Donald Grant and Doug Wilson with the Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce.
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