Farmers welcome drought relief fund

Brian Lawrence, of  Janefield at Meander, Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff, Rural Business Tasmania chief executive Elizabeth Skirving, and Rural Alive & Well chief executive Danial Rochford welcome the financial assistance for struggling farmers. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLER
Brian Lawrence, of Janefield at Meander, Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff, Rural Business Tasmania chief executive Elizabeth Skirving, and Rural Alive & Well chief executive Danial Rochford welcome the financial assistance for struggling farmers. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLER

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FARMERS will be able to access funds from a new drought relief pool as some continue to fight against unseasonably dry conditions.

More new funding measures were announced by the state’s Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff on Monday.

The measures follow a federal government announcement at the weekend of $10 million for low concessional loans as well as $2.27 million in earlier measures announced in November.

Mr Rockliff was joined by industry leaders from the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Rural Alive and Well and Rural Business Tasmania at TFGA president Wayne Johnson’s farm at Meander.

The new measures deal with the financial and emotional impacts of the season and include:

■$110,000 for a rural relief fund managed by Rural Business Tasmania.

■$70,000 funding for Rural Alive and Well to extend their services.

Rural Business Tasmania chief executive Elizabeth Skirving said the funds would cover immediate expenses such as basic household goods with family and animal welfare cases taking priority.

She called on the community to also pitch in and donate to the fund to keep the tally up as relief claims are processed.

Businesses can also apply to have relief fund boxes placed in their businesses where people can donate.

‘‘The current conditions are all about planning and managing what you can control,’’ Ms Skirving said.

‘‘However, we do not think anyone could conceive the record conditions that have hit the state and we thank the Minister for Primary Industry Jeremy Rockliff and the government for the provision of these vital funds.’’

Ms Skirving said the funds, along with the concessional loan scheme, would greatly assist and support families who were experiencing hardships due to the weather.

She said along with the state and federal government measures there were other resources out there to assist people as the dry extends.

‘‘The forum of rural stakeholders, a group that our organisation convenes, has worked throughout last year to develop and deliver resources that can support the rural sector during challenging times,’’ Ms Skirving said.

‘‘Among many resources this includes the recently released support services directory which can be found on the DPIPWE Farmpoint portal’’

In addition to the Rural Relief Fund, Rural Business Tasmania delivers the Rural Financial Counselling Service, federal funding for which it has now secured through to 30 June 2019.

Mr Rockliff said there was ‘‘no doubt’’ that some Tasmanian farmers were struggling with the extremely dry conditions and that others were experiencing ‘‘drought conditions’’.

‘‘I empathise with their frustration at the lack of rain and its consequences,’’ he said.

Mr Rockliff said the government would work with the federal government and industry as well as farmers on the ground to try and assist them when needed as the conditions continue.

‘‘This is another clear demonstration that a government no longer has to wait to declare drought before assistance can begin to flow to help those in need,’’ he said.

The Rural Relief Fund will be managed on a case-by-case basis by Rural Business Tasmania who will assess the claims as needed.

■ For more application forms or to donate to the Rural Relief Fund visit www.ruralbusinesstasmania.org.au/Rural-Relief.