Joyce holds little hope of more cash

FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has promised to explore the possibility of securing additional funding for farmers in the grips of a one-in-100-year drought.

Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce

Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce

But the New England MP, who earlier this year secured $320 million in drought relief measures, has warned farmers he does not fancy his chances of success.

Mr Joyce said while he was “extremely aware” of the plight farmers faced in parts of NSW, especially Walcha, he was loath to get anyone’s hopes up.

“I don’t want to give anybody a sense that just because I’m going to try and see what I can do in that direction that I’ll have any success this time,” he said.

“It’ll be my third trip back. I have to be honest with people. The first was difficult, the second one was incredibly difficult and the third one is more difficult than the other two put together.”

The federal government has in place a $420 million farm finance concessional loan scheme and a $320 million drought concessional loan scheme to assist the industry.

But Mr Joyce said budgetary constraints meant there was a limit to what the government could do to support long-suffering farmers.

“With all these things, the only thing that solves it in the end is rain,” he said. “We’ll never have pockets deep enough to compensate for no rain.

“My budgetary position is such that any time I ask for something they just say you go find another program to cut from your own department and take the money from there.

“We can just try and assist people the best we can through a period of hardship, knowing that no matter what you give, it will never be enough.”

Ross King, who runs a cattle and sheep breeding operation on a property 12km east of Walcha, said the drought was hitting farmers hard.

He said the drought packages put in place by the federal and state government were helping a lot, but any further relief would be greatly appreciated.

“It’s an amazing support, it really is,” he said. “That’s from a personal point of view, as well as the feeling I’m getting from other farmers.

“I’ve just received a freight subsidy for a load of grain I bought and another one for a load of cows I sent for slaughter and another one for a load of cows I sent for agistment.

“It’s a seriously good little bonus during tough times.”

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