Drought assistance plans revealed by Queensland government

Updated December 1 2021 - 9:38pm, first published 8:00pm
DROUGHT RELIEF: As part of its new drought program, the government will provide farmers with grants up to $50,000 and loans up to $250,000.

Touted as the most significant reform of drought programs in a generation, the state government today revealed its new assistance plans for farmers.

With preparedness and eligibility at the top of the agenda, the government has opened up funding to primary producers across all industries and it will be removing the requirement to be in a drought-declared region.

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The support will include 'preparedness' grants up to $50,000 and drought preparedness, assistance and recovery loans up to $250,000.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said droughts would continue to be part of farming in Queensland and systemic change was needed.

"That's why we're significantly changing how we offer drought assistance by focussing more on preparedness activities to help producers better manage the drought cycle, rather than waiting until a crisis," Ms Palaszczuk said.

The Queensland government's grants and loans will complement programs jointly funded by the federal government's Future Drought Fund and the state government, also being launched today.

Producers will be able to access the new Drought Preparedness Grants once they have developed an approved Farm Business Resilience Plan or similar.

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Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the reforms were part of the government's commitment to make it easier for producers to access support.

"These reforms fulfil a major election commitment to reform drought support to bring it up to date for the innovative, creative and dedicated Queensland producers of the 21st century," Mr Furner said.

The Drought Preparedness Grants will provide eligible producers up to 25 per cent to a maximum of $50,000 to implement drought resilience activities identified in their Farm Business Resilience Plan.

Drought Ready and Recovery Loans of up to $250,000 at a concessional interest rate will be available, if needed, to complement the Drought Preparedness Grant.

And if a producer is drought impacted, the Queensland government will provide interest free Emergency Drought Assistance Loans of up to $50,000 to help with drought related expenses, and if more is required, Drought Carry-on Finance Loans of up to $250,000 at a concessional interest rate.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will continue to work with industry organisations and other stakeholders to provide information and assistance to producers in a series of information sessions across Queensland starting early next year, once the loans are available.

The reforms follow a comprehensive review of drought assistance by former AgForce CEO Charles Burke and former Queensland Farmers Federation CEO Ruth Wade.

The drought measures include:

Drought Ready and Recovery Loan (available early 2022)

The Drought Ready and Recovery Finance Loan provides a concessional interest loan of up to $250,000 for primary producers to undertake preparedness measures identified in their Farm Business Resilience Plan. Examples include drilling of a bore, installing water infrastructure, installing feed storage, expanding dams and improving irrigation. This is a complementary measure to the drought preparedness grants. A drought declaration is not required for this loan.

Drought Carry-on Finance Loan Scheme (available early 2022)

The Drought Carry-on Finance Loans Scheme provides a concessional interest loan to drought-declared primary producers of up to $250,000 for drought carry-on finance. These loans will be available where the $50,000 available from the Emergency Drought Assistance Loans Scheme is insufficient. Applicants must be drought declared.

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Emergency Drought Assistance Loans (available early 2022)

Emergency Drought Assistance Loans provide an interest-free concessional loan to drought-declared primary producers of up to $50,000 as emergency finance for carry-on activities like paying wages or creditors during drought. Applicants must be drought declared.

Drought Preparedness Grants

The Drought Preparedness Grant scheme will provide a rebate to primary producers of up to 25 per cent up to $50,000 for on-farm capital improvements identified in their Farm Business Resilience Plan to improve the drought preparedness and resilience of their property such as drilling of a bore or installing feed storage. A drought declaration is not required for this grant.

Farm Management Grant Program

A rebate of 50 per cent to a maximum of $2500 will be available to primary producers for the professional cost of developing a Farm Business Resilience Plan for their property.

Farm Business Resilience Program

Industry organisations and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will deliver workshops and other training opportunities to help primary producers develop farm business resilience plans.

Drought Relief Assistance Scheme

DRAS will continue while this drought lasts. Drought-declared producers can choose to continue accessing DRAS support or transition to the new measures.

For more information visit daf.qld.gov.au/drought or phone the Customer Service Centre on 13 25 23.

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