Drought-hit farmers, small businesses and rural towns are set for an immediate cash injection to keep stock fed and watered, keep businesses open, keep locals in work and pump funds into local economies.

The Nationals in Government have continued to argue for more drought relief measures, and now the latest funding to combat the drought’s impact is ready to flow.

Since the budget earlier this year The Nationals in Government have secured an additional $355 million to step up the drought response. This announcement triples this to more than $1 billion since the election, as well as more than $1 billion in new interest free loans, to see people through.

This is money into the pockets of all those farmers and graziers who know they have a future, but are currently struggling to keep their operations running as the crippling effects of this drought continue to bite that we’ve heard from out on the ground. They are backing themselves and we are backing them to make it through to the better days that will be ahead.

It’s not only farmers doing it tough in drought. Our next step in drought support also has an eye squarely on those communities feeling the strain as work dries up and spending in local stores slows down.

Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Nationals Leader Michael McCormack said the latest initiatives would deliver an extra $709 million worth of direct support.

“Communities across Australia are suffering the effects of the prolonged dry spell and today’s announcement is the next step in the measures to help ease the burden of the drought,” Mr McCormack said.

“This suite of measures go to the heart of what matters to these communities. From small businesses to primary producers, we are working with communities to take the pressure off one of the worst droughts in history.

“Not only is the Government continuing to respond as the drought progresses, but we are working on measures to assist in the recovery when the rains come, which includes the Government’s billion dollar investment in water infrastructure.”

“We’re getting local projects and infrastructure work underway to keep finance flowing, trades in work and money rolling through local stores.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Nationals Leader Michael McCormack

Nationals Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said a new loans program for small businesses and making existing drought loans interest free for two years would deliver immediate support for everything from buying fodder to transporting stock and agisting cattle through to paying staff and purchasing new equipment. The Regional Investment Corporation’s mandate sets its interest rate just to cover administration and borrowing costs.

“These loans mean farmers and small business owners can do what they need to, right now at zero cost,” Senator McKenzie said.

“Farmers will not have to pay a cent for the next two years and we’ll keep assessing the program if the drought runs longer than that to ensure repayments are affordable.

“With $200 million worth of loans committed already, we estimate the new small business program and the changes to the Drought Loans for farms will see around $1.2 billion issued over the next three years that they can put to their priorities.”

The Nationals in Government will continue to listen to drought-affected Australia, respond and step up.