The New South Wales Government has vowed to pour another $350 million into its Farm Innovation Fund if the Liberal-National coalition is re-elected at the coming state election.
The fund is a key plank in the State Government’s drought response and many farmers have used it to build dams, irrigation systems, sink bores, improve fencing, build hay sheds and plant vegetation.
The state’s overall drought response, amounting to about $1 billion late last year, included the Farm Innovation Fund along with 50 per cent subsidies for transport costs, $50,000 interest-free loans for transport, and rolling out mental health services across the state.
The LNP election pledge increases the maximum amount farmers can borrow from $250,000 to $1 million per farming business, and the scheme has been widened to include farming cooperatives.
Interest from the fund has been proposed to be used to create a future fund which will enable the Rural Assistance Authority — the body that maintains the Farm Innovation Fund — to continue to lend to farmers in the decades ahead.
Deputy Premier and NSW National Party leader John Barilaro said the state’s farmers needed assistance.
“Right now we are enduring one of the toughest droughts this state has seen for a very long time,” he said.
“Farmers who have accessed the innovation fund in the past have been a little bit more resilient as this drought bites, but there’s more to be done.”
Mr Barilaro said the fund’s application form has been simplified, farmers can now apply more than once in the same year, and the money has been flowing to farmers quickly.
Being an election pledge, the money would not flow unless the incumbent LNP Government is returned at the state election in March, and it needs to be approved in the budget after that time.
Federally, Labor announced yesterday it would not support the Liberal-National coalition’s $5 billion fighting fund announced last year and said it would announce its own drought policy instead.