Grants of up to $75,000 for farm businesses impacted by bushfire will go a long way to assisting farmers to recover, rebuild and restore productivity, National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson said.
The NFF, with its members, provided the Federal Government preliminary advice on the priority assistance requirements of farmers and the most appropriate investment for agriculture flowing from the Federal Government’s $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund.
“The needs of farmers for whom bushfire has destroyed and compromised livestock; vegetation; fences; water and other key infrastructure are great and varied,” Ms Simson said.
“The NFF and our members saw an immediate cash injection as one of the most pressing needs and that’s what we recommended to Government.
“We are pleased that the Government has heeded our advice.”
The NFF also welcomed funding for 60 additional rural financial counsellors and support workers.
Ms Simson said, in its advice to Government, the NFF referenced the success of the $75,000 immediate cash grants administered to flood-affected north Queensland cattle producers early in 2019.
“These grants assisted producers to carry out the immediate works needed to clean-up and help with the the investment required to restore productivity.
“We are of the strong belief that the same assistance will be of great benefit to fire-affected farmers in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.”
“We also made recommendations about the medium and long-term requirements including assistance to reestablish herds, pastures and critical infrastructure and the opportunity to better prepare farms for fire into the future.”
Speaking in Canberra today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the grants would be administered by the States and would flow to those eligible immediately. The initial funding commitment is $100 million. If further support is needed additional funds will be made available, the Prime Minister said.
“We’re pleased that the grants will not be limited to farmers’ who have had their property of residence impacted,” Ms Simson said.
“Many farmers have had properties affected that adjoin national parks and bushland and are not necessarily connected to the primary place of operation but are still an important part of their business.
“We also welcomed the exemption of off-farm income of up to $100,000 per person and look forward to understanding more detail about eligibility.”
Ms Simson said all farmers impacted by fire had also been challenged by the ongoing, unprecedented drought conditions.
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s reiteration that bushfire assistance is in addition to, not in replacement of, drought support.
“The grants announced today, will have the positive flow-on effect of helping our regional and rural communities, whose economies are set to suffer for a long time to come as a result of the bushfire disaster.”
Ms Simson said it was also important that additional support for communities in terms of recovery and mental health support was also provided.
The NFF will take part in the Government-convened agriculture-specific bushfire roundtable on Thursday and the peak industry body bushfire roundtable on Friday.