New drought assistance programs will focus on fostering greater preparedness and business resilience for a broader range of eligible Queensland primary producers in the most significant reforms of drought programs in a generation.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said drought was one of the biggest challenges faced by primary producers and had significant economic, environmental and social impacts.
“Many Queensland producers are entering their eighth year of drought,” the Premier said.
“We know that droughts will continue to be part of farming in Queensland but we vowed to make it easier for our producers to access support when they need it.
“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.”
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said in a major shift, the Palaszczuk Government is expanding drought program eligibility to primary producers across all industries and removing the requirement to be in a drought-declared region to be able to access the new preparedness assistance.
“The support available will include Drought Preparedness Grants up to $50,000 and a suite of new drought preparedness, assistance and recovery loans up to $250,000,” he said.
“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.
“Agriculture is an essential industry in Queensland and a vital part of Queensland’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan, so we will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our farmers and agricultural businesses.”
The reforms to Queensland’s drought programs followed a comprehensive review of drought assistance by former AgForce CEO Charles Burke and former Queensland Farmers Federation CEO Ruth Wade.
The Queensland Government’s drought assistance grants and loans will complement drought resilience planning programs jointly funded by the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund and the Queensland Government, also being launched today in Queensland.
“Just as we have promised, producers in drought-declared areas currently accessing existing assistance programs can continue to receive that assistance for as long as the area remains drought-declared,” Mr Furner said.
“In fact, they will have the option of choosing between staying on that assistance or transitioning to the new programs while still drought declared.”
Mr Furner said the reforms would ensure vital support to the agriculture sector, which is an essential industry in Queensland and a critical part of Queensland’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan.
Producers will be able to access the new Drought Preparedness Grants once they have developed an approved Farm Business Resilience Plan or similar.
“The Drought Preparedness Grants will provide eligible producers up to 25 percent to a maximum of $50,000 to implement drought resilience activities identified in their Farm Business Resilience Plan,” Mr Furner said.
“In addition to the grants, the Queensland Government will also offer new drought preparedness, assistance, and recovery loans available from QRIDA from early 2022, as announced in the last budget.
“To help prepare for and recover from drought, 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 Queensland Government will continue to explore ways to improve the drought declaration process”, Mr Furner said
“Local Drought Committees will continue to assess local drought conditions and make recommendations to the Government about drought declarations. Producers will continue to be able to apply for an individually droughted property declaration if their region is not drought declared.”
For more details on the new Queensland drought assistance, visit daf.qld.gov.au/drought or phone 13 25 23.