Our farming families and communities are resilient. They're putting on a brave face and I fundamentally believe Australian agriculture has an incredibly bright future.
The government's new measures to help drought communities include:
- Making up to 100 gigalitre (GL) of water available to farmers at a discounted rate to grow fodder, silage and pasture - securing fodder supplies for the months ahead.
- Increased water production from the Adelaide Desalination Plant to increase water available in the Murray Darling Basin.
This will be made available to irrigators at a nominal price of $100 per megalitre with 100GL of water helping to produce up to 120,000 tonnes of fodder.
Ten million dollars is being made available through the Department of Education's Special Circumstances Program to support schools.
We have further extended the Drought Communities Program, taking in Greater Hume and Lockhart in the Riverina.
There is a further $1 million available to Local Government Areas that have already received funding if support if still needed.
The government will also support small businesses with a new concessional loan of up to $500,000 including two-years, interest-free, interest-only payment for years three to five and interest and principal for years six to ten.
We will support farming families with two-years interest-free drought loans, amending the loan settings of the existing Drought Loans to provide to two-years interest-free, interest-only payment for years three to five and interest and principal for years six to 10.
Farmers that have already accessed the Drought Loans will be able to renegotiate the terms to include the two-year interest-free period.
These loans mean farmers and small business owners can do what they need to, right now at zero cost. Farmers will not have to pay a cent for the next two years and we'll keep assessing the program if the drought runs longer than that to ensure repayments are affordable.
The government estimates the new small business program and the changes to the Drought Loans for farms will see around $1.2 billion issued over the next three years that they can put to their priorities.
As the leader of The Nationals Michael McCormack said this week these measures go to the heart of what matters to our rural and regional communities.