DROUGHT RESPONSE: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud, Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Education Dan Tehan at a press conference for drought.
DROUGHT RESPONSE: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud, Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Education Dan Tehan at a press conference for drought.

$500 million relief package to support struggling farmers

RELIEF is on the way for farmers across the Southern Downs after the Federal Government announced its next phase of drought relief measures.

A $500 million stimulus package will help farmers, small businesses and agriculturally dependent councils pull through the worst drought in living memory.

Farmers with loans from the Regional Investment Corporation will get a much-needed break from financial pressure after the interest-free, no repayment period is extended for two years.

$2 million loans will be reconfigured to allow 10 years for repayment and additional funds will become available to those needing a hand paying for feed, water, freight or stock.

Small agricultural businesses will become eligible for cheap loans of up to $500,000.

Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said these measures will give rural residents options to survive.

"For those people involved in primary production and the businesses that support them these loan packages will be of great benefit," Cr Dobie said.

"It's not about a one-size-fits-all situation, it's about allowing primary producers and those businesses to determine whether they are willing to take up in order to move forward.

Once the rain comes, beneficiaries will be able to use the funds to purchase the seed or stock they need to reinvigorate their business and see profits roll in prior to making repayments.

"After we get rain it will be a couple of years before producers see income again, so for those who want buying options it allows them to go down that track," Cr Dobie said.

Funds earmarked for the Building Better Regions funds will be redirected to regional infrastructure projects, special drought projects and the upgrade and maintenance of regional roads.

An additional $1 million will be given to the Southern Downs Regional Council as part of the Drought Communities Program.

"It will be of great benefit to the region," Cr Dobie said.

Spending criteria will determine what the funds can be spent on and this is yet to be determined, but previous contributions went towards water carting, additional standpipes, water tank funding and the upgrade of several community halls.



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