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SA farmers to get drought relief as big dry bites

Local

Drought-hit farmers in South Australia will share in a $21 million support package from the state government.

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The SA package will help fund rebates on council rates, pastoral lease rent relief, an expansion of the Rural Financial Counselling Service and a rebate scheme for emergency water infrastructure.

“Our primary producers are the backbone of the state’s economy and when drought hits there is a ripple effect that impacts individual farmers, families and regional communities,” Premier Steven Marshall said on Tuesday.

The package offers a 50 per cent, government-funded rebate for council rates or pastoral lease rent in 2019-20 and 2020-21 for primary producers receiving the Farm Household Allowance.

It will also boost funding to Rural Business Support to help small rural and regional businesses, and increase the Rural Financial Counselling Services to meet growing demand.

The federal On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme will also be increased from 25% to 50% (or up to $50,000) to encourage eligible primary producers to install new water infrastructure and improve drought resilience.

The SA package comes after a declaration that almost 70 per cent of Queensland is now in the grip of drought, with more towns added to a list obtaining financial support for struggling farmers.

Eight new shires and councils, all of them in the state’s southeast corner, have been added to the list of drought-stricken communities.

That means 67.4 per cent of the state is now officially in drought, with 41 councils fully drought declared, and another four partially declared.

The latest local government areas added to the list are Noosa, the Gold and Sunshine coasts, Redlands, Logan, Gympie, Sunshine Coast, and the Fraser Coast.

Primary producers who derive half their income from the land in those areas will now be eligible for financial support, including freight and water subsidies.

“These are difficult times and as a government, we’re standing shoulder to shoulder with our farmers and supporting them,” state Agriculture Minister Mark Furner told ABC radio on Tuesday.

The government is putting on three additional drought assessment officers to cope with the expected influx of requests for support.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has called on all states to do more on drought assistance, including paying farmers’ council rates and providing holidays from state taxes and crown lease arrangements.

Furner said Queensland was doing plenty in the area of drought relief, committing $745 million since 2013.

-with AAP

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