THE Federal Government will allocate $3.9 billion to a Future Drought Fund as part of a national drought assistance package announced at a special drought summit in Canberra today.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was establishing a Future Drought Fund with an initial allocation of $3.9 billion, with the fund eventually growing to $5 billion.
“A comprehensive drought response not only needs to look at the immediate needs of those affected but to look at the future to ensure our agricultural sector is prepared and resilient,” he said.
“The fund will provide a sustainable source of funding for drought resilience works, preparedness and recovery.
“It is about farmers and their communities prepare and adapt to the impact of drought.”
Through the fund, the government will draw down $100 million a year for projects, research and infrastructure to support long term sustainability. It will operate similarly to the medical research fund.
“This is about putting money away for a non-rainy day in the future. We will begin operating that fund as soon as we are able to pass the legislation through the Parliament,” he said.
In other measures, the Prime Minister also announced today:
- An extension of the Drought Communities Program to local shires.
- A further $15.3 million in mental health initiatives.
- $30 million to selected charities to support farmers, farm workers and farm suppliers, involving cash payments and vouchers.
- $50 million for on-farm emergency water infrastructure through a rebate scheme.
- A new online farm hub hosted by the NFF to provide a single point of access to information and services.
“In total, these additional drought assistance measures increase the Australian Government’s commitment to nearly $6 billion, growing to $7 billion over time.”
Mr Morrison said the new measures added to more than $1.8 billion in assistance and concessional loans already allocated to support drought-affected farmers and communities.
- Extending the farm household allowance from three to four years; a temporary increase in the farm household allowance asset threshold from $2.6 million to $5 million; and a new temporary FHA supplement of up to $12,000 for eligible farming couples per household, and up to $7200 for eligible single farmers paid as two lump sum payments.
- Providing up to $72 million for water infrastructure.
- Additional $11.4 million for mental health in rural communities.
- Boosting drought communities program by $75 million.
- Additional support for managing pests and weeds.
- Changing the rules so primary producers can immediately deduct, rather than depreciate over three years, the cost of fodder storage assets.
- Cutting red tape for trucks carting hay.