Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen welcomes Farm Innovation Funding reaching $1 billion during dry conditions

DROUGHT-impacted farmers in the Upper Hunter are being urged to consider applying for low interest loans under the NSW Government’s Farm Innovation Fund.

It follows an announcement this week that the initiative will be boosted to $1 billion.

Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen said farmers in the region would be eligible for low interest loans of up to $1 million to help identify and address risks to their farming enterprises, improve permanent infrastructure, ensure long-term productivity and sustainable land use and prepare for challenging seasonal conditions.

“This is a welcome boost from the NSW Government considering the tough year farmers in the seat of Upper Hunter have faced,” he explained.

“Indeed, over an extended period, as in NSW the drought began in the Upper Hunter.

“We know that 2018-19 has been one of the driest years on record, which is why it’s important to know that supporting our farmers is a top priority for the government.

“The Farm Innovation Fund has already helped hundreds of farmers in areas like the Upper Hunter, funding capital works like new cattle yards, solar power systems, silos and bore water systems.

“The aim of this fund is to ease some of the financial pressure on local farmers when it comes to enduring these adverse conditions we’ve faced in Upper Hunter over the past few years.”

Mr Johnsen noted the additional funding increased the NSW Government’s investment in drought support to almost $1.5 billion.

“We know our local farmers are among the best in the world,” he said.

“However, we’re also aware that it’s crucial we continue to support them to improve their businesses, even during these adverse conditions, and the government has not forgotten how important they are to our state’s economy.

“During this extended period of dry weather I have been travelling to drought-affected areas, listening to and understanding the needs of our farming communities, and continuing to lobby on their behalf.

“As promised previously, the government will continue to consult our local farming communities, and to refine policy on an ongoing basis to meet our farmer’s needs.”

Mr Johnsen said the NSW Government’s strengthening of its Drought Relief Package would provide urgent support for those who needed it most.

Key changes include:

* Providing an additional $5 million for emergency water supplies to ensure towns have access to safe and reliable water;

* Increasing the amount farmers can claim on Drought Transport Subsidies from $30,000 to $40,000; and

* Providing an additional $2 million to connect people to support services through the Rural Resilience Program.

“Due to hard work and responsible economic policy over the past eight years, the NSW Government is able to give back to our farming community to help take the pressure off during these extended dry conditions,” Mr Johnsen said.

“This funding is not contingent upon re-election.

“However, it will undoubtedly be at risk should the Nationals-Liberals not be re-elected into government, because NSW Labor has a history of forgetting our farmers and looking after the inner-city greenies instead.”

For more information on the Farm Innovation Fund, visit https://www.raa.nsw.gov.au/assistance/farm-innovation-fund