OPINION: Assistance is investment

OPINION

By Fiona Simson

ON MONDAY I joined members of the National Farmers Federation in discussions with the federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce regarding drought assistance.

As dry conditions continue across much of NSW, particularly in the state’s North West, discussion centred on how assistance can be better delivered to those who need it most.

About $430 million from the Drought Concessional Loans Scheme and the Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme remains unallocated.

NSW Farmers is concerned that structural problems with these packages are preventing producers accessing much needed assistance.

On Monday I asked Mr Joyce to review the current loan schemes and suggested the establishment of consolidated loans with longer terms, more competitive rates and more reasonable and accessible conditions.

I asked the interest on loans be capitalised until the end of the loan period. I also discussed the Farm Household
Allowance, and made the case for simpler application procedures, reductions in the asset test and amendments to the off-farm income tests.

Finally, I asked for further consideration on the role of government in assisting rural communities which are suffering as a result of the drought.

This federal government has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to Australia’s producers and rural communities, most recently through the introduction of the Farm Household Assistance Package, and the Drought Recovery Concessional Loans Scheme.

Furthermore, the minister was receptive and respectful of our approaches and promised to give them due consideration.

It is certain Mr Joyce is well aware of the hardships facing many of NSW’s producers, and is focused on
how to best deliver appropriate assistance in the short and long term.

NSW Farmers welcomes this, and stands ready to assist the federal government however it can.
Through all of these discussions, it must be remembered drought affects more than just producers on farms,
and our response must go beyond drought assistance for these producers.

Drought impacts not just on farm incomes, but also the social and economic fabric of rural communities.
With this in mind, any government response should not be seen so much as assistance, but investment.

It is an investment in our producers and communities to ensure they can once again contribute to the economy.

NSW Farmers View
Published The Land - 16 April 2015

Contact: Veneta Chapple

Phone: 0429 990 218

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