Australia’s Agriculture Minister warns Funds won’t fix the drought – Cowsmo

Australia’s Agriculture Minister warns Funds won’t fix the drought

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has warned the federal government can only ease the impact a long-running drought is having on farmers in Queensland and NSW.

‘Obviously, only the good Lord and rain can fix the issue,’ he told ABC radio on Wednesday, ahead of a government announcement about drought relief.

A package, approved by cabinet late on Tuesday, will increase access to the concessional interest-only loan scheme and extend terms from five years to a decade.

Eligible farmers will have their access to Newstart payments brought forward from July.

Mr Joyce says farming families have an expectation the nation should help them in some way when drought deprives them of an income for a long period.

‘You have to assist people by giving them access to cash.’

But the government has ruled out providing wage assistance, a measure suggested by the National Farmers Federation.

NSW Farmers Association president Fiona Simson says the big dry also has contributed to higher rates of depression.

‘Extra support workers who can reach out to people and help them through the crisis, are what is absolutely critical,’ she told ABC radio.

Mr Joyce flagged additional government support to address mental health issues.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon says Labor will welcome any extension of the concessional interest-only loan scheme.

But it wants farmers to have faster access to the farm household support payment, a measure promised by Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier this month.

‘He needs to do something to put cash into the pockets of struggling farm families,’ Mr Fitzgibbon told reporters in Canberra.

‘Here we are still waiting for him to act’.

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