Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has introduced changes to the Farm Finance debt relief package.
The new arrangement will see more funding allocated to Queensland, NSW and Victoria, at the expense of other states and the NT, reports ABC.
According to the new terms of the financial package, Queensland will get an additional $20 million for concessional loans this year, while NSW and Victoria are set to bag $10 million apiece for 2013/14.
The terms of the previous Labor government’s plan supported by the then Coalition Government dictated that each state and the Northern Territory was to receive $30 million over the course of two years, funds which were to be used for granting concessional loans to “viable” debt stricken farmers.
The changes mean that South and Western Australia will each receive $10 million less over two years, while Northern Territory and Tasmania will each receive $30 million over two years.
The revised scheme is worth $380, which is $40 million less than the original plan.
According to Mr. Joyce, all of the remaining $40 million will go into a reserve fund which will be used to give the Government greater flexibility in offering more concessional loans to farmers in the 2014/15 financial year.
Mr. Joyce has also announced that the Commonwealth will grant Queensland additional $7 million and NSW $3 million to construct bored and watering points on drought-affected areas. The financial aid will supplement the existing Queensland Government scheme designed to improve the water infrastructure in the region.
The Minister said $10 million will come from unallocated funds originally intended for sustainable agriculture projects under the Caring for our Country and Landcare program, which was interpreted as a breach of promise, as the Coalition had promised that there will be no cuts to Landcare if it was elected.
“I think a reasonable person looking at this would say it definitely assists sustainable agriculture programs,” he said.
“If you think of the countervailing view, if I had all my cattle at one watering point in a corner of a paddock, that is not assisting the land. That is actually causing a problem in the care of the land. The more I can get those cattle to evenly pasture across my property, the better I can look after the property.”
“That is certainly a Landcare attribute.”
Queensland farm lobby group AgForce has welcomed Mr. Joyce’s announcement, labeling it as “a very positive first step” and recognition that Queensland was one of the state’s worst affected by draught at present.