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Australia: Record drought assistance for QLD farmers

The Queensland State Government has continued its record spend on drought assistance.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has dedicated another $18.7 million dollars to the drought assistance package, which will include water and freight rebates, land rent relief and the building of community resilience.

Agriculture Minister John McVeigh, says the amount of money this Government has put towards drought assistance, has never been seen before.

“$62 million over two years, for this current drought, is unprecedented in the history Queensland Government support in times of drought, so I’m particularly pleased to get that.”

The continued assistance has been welcomed by agriculture lobby group Agforce’s Chief Executive Charles Burke.

“Given so many of our primary producers are trying to navigate their way through this drought, the continuation of these measures is crucial.”

However Mr Burke says many people have given up on accessing the stalled funding for the Federal Government’s Concessional Loans package. 

The Federal Government’s package was announced in February, however it has taken until early June for the package to be signed off. 

“All primary producers in Queensland that have an expectation that they can use this facility, have given up. 

“They just don’t know when they’re going to see anything, so they’ve given up even thinking about it.”

State Agriculture Minister John McVeigh, agrees Queensland has waited too long for the money from the package.

Straight-forward budget for agriculture 

Overall about $408 million has been put towards primary industries in the 2014/15 budget, however Charles Burke has described the budget as lack lustre and containing a few surprises.

There weren’t many investments in primary industry, but the budget upheld previously announced commitments. 

Mr Burke says the budget, which aims to reduce state debt, by fore-shadowing the sale or lease of ports, rail lines and power stations, does not particularly harm, or benefit the agriculture portfolio.

There has been a $2.5 million investment, over three years, to boost Queensland’s foot and mouth disease preparedness, focusing on surveillance, prevention and response.

About $55 million has also been allocated to agricultural research, development and extension including $4 million to Sugar Research Australia, $6.9 million to University of Queensland in the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation and $2.7 million to the Queensland University of Technology for agriculture robotics and tropical pulse research.

Last year the Queensland Competition Authority agreed to cap irrigators electricity price rise to 10 per cent for one year.

The Queensland Competition Authority has recommend a 13 per cent price rise this year, however the cap for irrigators has not been continued, which means irrigators will receive the same price rise this year, as the rest of the community.

Minister McVeigh says, the State Government has kept a lid on increases as best they could, as they move out of contracts inherited from the previous Government and hopes the prices will plateau soon. 

“In the meantime Queensland Farmers’ Federation and Ergon Energy are working together and my department alone is putting in almost $1 million to efficiency research and looking at case studies and how we can deal with these power price increases and make it easier on the farmer.”

– Weatherzone/ABC


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