Drought funding committed

SUPPORT: Farmers affected by devastating drought conditions offered $5 billion assistance package.
SUPPORT: Farmers affected by devastating drought conditions offered $5 billion assistance package.

The federal government have announced a $5 billion drought assistance package to support farmers struggling with extreme conditions in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.

The Future Drought Fund, announced at the National Drought Summit on Friday, will be complimented by the $81 million Drought Communities Program which has been expanded to include 17 local council areas in South Australia.

Those council areas include the District Council of Kimba and the District Council of Cleve.

The communities program provides up to $1 million for each council in funding to support local infrastructure and other projects for communities and businesses who have been impacted by drought.

Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said the expansion of the Drought Communities Program to support 17 regional councils was a welcome investment with the South Australian agriculture, food and wine industries.

“The impact of droughts extend beyond the farm gate and quickly turn into financial droughts for those local businesses and workers who rely on profitable farmers coming into the small towns and spending money,” he said.

“This new funding injection into droughted areas will enable councils to deliver local projects that create employment and build the resilience of communities.”

But the Opposition says the government must confirm that South Australian farmers who are experiencing drought will get their fair share of $5 billion investment.

Shadow Primary Industries Minister Eddie Hughes welcomed the funding package but said he was disappointed it could not be accessed until 2020.

“Minister Whetstone must receive an assurance from his colleagues that SA’s drought affected farmers will get their fair share of the $5 billion package,” he said.

“I also call on Minister Whetstone to urge the Federal Government to bring forward the relief package – 2020 is too far away.  Drought affected farmers need help now.”