A rural financial counsellor is urging drought impacted Queensland producers to assess their options before opting into new state drought assistance schemes.
Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) is working with Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) extension officers to assist producers formulate Farm Business Resilience Plans.
However, north Queensland rural financial counsellor, Rachel Bock, said whilst the plans can be utilised to apply for the new funding, such as the new Drought Preparedness Grant Scheme, producers in drought declared areas are reminded they may still be eligible for the existing Drought Relief Assistance Scheme (DRAS).
"Producers are certainly encouraged to take up the opportunity of no fee assistance with creating a farm business resilience plan," Ms Bock said.
"However, we are reminding droughted producers that opting into the new drought preparedness assistance measures will essentially take away their access to the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme - DRAS."
"Under DRAS, existing drought declared properties may be eligible for up to $50,000 per property, per financial year, for fodder and water freight subsidies and the Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate (EWIR) until their drought status is revoked, or they opt into the new scheme.
"The new Drought Preparedness Grant is a maximum cumulative amount of up to $50,000 over five years."
A Farm Business Resilience Plan will enable producers to apply for new Queensland Government drought assistance funding, such as the new Drought Preparedness Grant Scheme, delivered by the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA).
Drought-declared producers who to move to the new drought preparedness grants and loans will lose access to DRAS if done so.
Ms Bock is encouraging farmers to evaluate their choices.
"I'd suggest anyone looking at their options, contact their local rural financial counsellor to help identify what is the best option," she said.
"What is a good option for one producer in one area, may be different for someone else's situation."
A DAF spokesperson said Queensland's new drought assistance programs do not require a drought declaration and are open to more kinds of producers than the old schemes.
DRAS funding will not be available in future droughts and will be phased out as local government areas come out of drought.
As of February 2022, 34 Queensland shires were fully drought-declared and three partly drought-declared. The total drought declared area across the state represented a 64.7 per-cent land mass.
However, with widespread recent rainfall across the state, including in drought declared shires, the question of what happens next is asked.
"While rain has been a big relief to some dry areas, flooding has caused devastation in others," a DAF spokesperson said.
"Big rain events do not necessarily mean the drought is over for all of Queensland.
"Some areas of north west and central western Queensland, which have been drought declared the longest, are still looking for more rain this wet season.
"Queensland has a well-defined wet and dry season. Local drought committees will make recommendations at the end of the wet season when impacts on pastures and overall conditions, including follow-up rains, can be properly assessed."
For more information visit the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
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