The Nationals in Government are delivering much-needed help for farmers and communities, taking our total response now to more than $1 billion.

A $500 million Emergency Drought Relief Package was announced on Monday, which included about $190 million for the introduction of Drought Transport Subsidies. The transport subsidy of up to $20,000 per farm business, which would cover up to 50 per cent of the full cost of transporting fodder, water for stock and livestock to pasture, slaughter or sale, was back-dated to January 1, 2018 so farmers could access additional subsidies for freight expenses already incurred.

About $100 million will also be spent on cutting the cost of farming fees and charges by waiving Local Land Services rates, waiving fixed water charges in rural and regional areas, and waiving class one agricultural vehicle registration costs among other initiatives.

NSW Nationals Leader, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said this drought had quickly worsened across the state because June and July were drier than expected, and farmers had been forced to source fodder from interstate as local supply has deteriorated.

“We said we would constantly reassess the conditions and relief measures, and the fact we’ve now increased our drought-relief package to over $1 billion is a reflection of how serious this drought is, and how much we value the health and wellbeing of our farming and regional communities,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Importantly, we have backdated this relief measure to the start of the year when the drought intensified, especially in Western NSW. This means eligible farmers who made the decision to destock earlier this year will still benefit from this new relief package.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said farmers are facing one of the driest winters on record, resulting in failing crops, drastic water shortages and a diminishing supply of fodder to sustain livestock.

“We have listened to farmers throughout NSW who have told us they urgently need help,” Ms Berejiklian said. “To date we have already committed $584 million in drought support, most of which is focused on preparation for drought conditions. However, conditions are now so dire that further support is needed to address the more immediate needs for farmers and their communities until the drought breaks.”

Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair reiterated his commitment to standing side by side with farmers during the worsening drought.

“As part of the emergency funding I am pleased to announce waivers on Local Land Services annual rates, fixed charges on water licences, registration costs for class one agricultural vehicles, and interest on existing Farm Innovation Fund loans,” Mr Blair said.

“We know many families are also having to bring in water for domestic use, which is why we have also set aside additional funding for this essential service. The package we have has to be fair, it has to be equitable and it has to be able to be adapted to all types of farming businesses right across NSW.”

Member for Bathurst Paul Toole welcomed the Nationals in Government’s Emergency Relief Package.

“I know farming families across my electorate and beyond have been struggling with deteriorating conditions. This package shows more support for farming families to help them get through this difficult time,” Mr Toole said. “The transport subsidy in particular will be welcomed by farming families throughout the Central West.”

The package also included $150 million to bolster the Farm Innovation Fund (FIF) infrastructure program, to help farmers better prepare for the next drought. There was also funding for counselling and mental health, critical services in regional communities including transporting water and drought-related road upgrades and repairs, and animal welfare and stock disposal.

The NSW Rural Assistance Authority will begin processing applications from Monday, August 6. For more information on the Emergency Drought Relief Package visit www.droughthub.nsw.gov.au