How funding boost could help our drought-stricken farmers
While she's not holding her breath for rain, local cattle farmer Patricia Whalley is looking to make her property more drought resilient.
Speaking at her Calavos property yesterday Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, said the Coalition Government was doubling its funding for the successful On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme to $100 million.
"The rebate scheme had been very well received by farmers because the infrastructure it supported provided enduring benefits, including new bores, better dams and pipes that allowed movement of water to their stock," Minister Pitt said.
"The Government's extra $50 million will be available this financial year to drought affected livestock producers and horticulturalists with permanent plantings."
"This investment in our farmers provides rebates up to 25 per cent of the eligible infrastructure costs, capped at $25,000."
Ms Whalley runs about 350 head of cattle on 1000 acres and the drought has started take its toll once again.
She said last year was the first time they had applied for the funding and while it wasn't a nice feeling to have to ask for help, they were going to apply again this year.
Ms Whalley said last year they received freight recovery from the State Government, $3000 for feed from St Vincent de Paul and a pallet of feed through North Bundaberg Produce Agency, which was through a charity.
"We did get a good response … that's the first time that we ever in our lifetime that we've had to have a hand out," she said.
"So we've done a long, hard road and in this area alone, you could say back eight years it's been drought more-or-less, and last year is the first year we applied."
Amid the drought, Ms Whalley said in the past two weeks they've been rolling out rolling bales and were in the middle of watering and planting pasture for feed.
She said they were looking to plough up old cane land to plant pasture and get their young stock up to the numbers they had before the drought.
In good times, Ms Whalley said they would have had 500-head of cattle despite having already reduced her stock, further cuts could be on the horizon.
If they were successful in getting funding she said they would look to recondition their bores to enable them to grow more feed.
Mr Pitt said this boost was about ensuring farmers in drought-stricken areas have every opportunity to make their water systems more efficient.
He said the program, which was administered by state governments, had been "mismanaged" in a number of states which resulted in an overrun; but the Commonwealth won't allow for those farmers to be "abandoned" or left out on a limb.
Mr Pitt said a number of Queensland-based growers were unsuccessful in the first round, some of which were in Bundaberg.
"What we've done in this round, the additional $50m which will be announced, I am writing to the state ministers, my state counterparts, the states will be required to match the Commonwealth funding dollar-for-dollar, up to the 25 per cent point, so farmers won't be left out,"
"We will clear that back log; so all of those applicants who are out there who spent money in good faith, who were misled by a number of states in terms of what level of funding was available, can be covered.
"And then of course we will look at what's left in the tin for further distribution."
Mr Pitt said he was giving the states from today until October 31 to respond to the Commonwealth to agree to the proposal and provide a list of applicants they are aware of that are eligible for this fund.
He said there was about 2000 known applicants who missed out last time.
This fund applies to individuals who are livestock producers, those who have permanent tree plantings, while drought declaration varies from state to state.
As of August, more than 60 per cent of Queensland, including Bundaberg, was drought declared.
Since going out of cane about 15 years ago, Ms Whalley said it had never been this dry.
While there's talk of a rainy summer, Ms Whalley's not holding her breath for it to rain.
"I'll believe it when I go outside and get wet," she said.
Minister Littleproud said the scheme was extremely popular as it provided much needed assistance to improve water security, productivity and profitability.
"While recent rains are a cause for optimism, recovering from drought can take years rather than months," Minister Littleproud said.
"This rebate is essential in the immediate term to help farmers keep livestock watered and permanent plantings alive in the drought.
"It's even more valuable over the long term because the water infrastructure farmers build now will better prepare them for future drought events.
"The Commonwealth has stepped up to provide this extra funding to ensure more farmers do not miss out on this crucial rebate, and I know farmers would welcome state governments also stepping up to co-fund these rebates in order to provide certainty to communities."
This announcement comes just days before the Federal Budget is to be released.
Mr Pitt said the upcoming budget was "probably the most important budget since World War II".
"We want to ensure the country will grow its way out of the current economic difficulties we find ourselves in, we want to ensure the health and safety of all Australians and we must ensure that we can continue to pay for those essential services Australians rely on," Mr Pitt said.
"Whether it's hospitals, education, roads or bridges, and to do that we need a growing economy and everyone back at work."
For more information about the On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme visit the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment's website.