Malcolm Turnbull in Forbes to announce next phase of Federal Government’s drought package

More loans, a national drought response coordinator, water infrastructure and support for councils were among measures announced by the Prime Minister when he visited Forbes on Sunday.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull fronted a press conference at HE Silos on Sunday to announce the next phase of the Federal Government’s drought package. 

The Prime Minister was shown around the silo manufacturing business, NSW 2016 Business of the Year, by three generations of the Morrison family.

Mr Turnbull, alongside Member for Riverina Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Agriculture and Water Minister David Littleproud and Regional Development Minister John McVeigh, then spoke to media.

They announced funding for enhanced long term weather forecasting, water infrastructure and councils in drought-affected areas. 

Low-interest loans for farmers have been increased from $1 million to $2 million, for immediate needs such as purchasing feed and fodder. The first five years will remain interest only. 

There will be $1 million for each of 60 councils in drought-affected areas, with improvements needed to a Forbes Shire Council standpipe given as an example of the works that could be done. 

“We know drought is felt as hard on the main street as it is in the back paddock which is why our drought response is designed to help farmers as well as the towns and communities that surround them,” Mr McVeigh said.

The measures include changes to depreciation that mean primary producers can immediately deduct the cost of fodder storage assets, such as silos and hay sheds used to store grain and other animal feed storage.

There will also be a special drought round under the National Water Infrastructure Development fund, “to identify those pipes, those dams, that we can help to build the resilience, to build … the sustainability, productivity and profitability of agriculture,” Mr Littleproud said.

The Bureau of Meteorology will get $2.7 million to develop new finer scale regional weather and climate guides so farmers “have the management tools to make the right decisions” about stocking density, Mr Littleproud said.

The announcement met with mixed reaction as it was streamed live via the Forbes Advocate’s Facebook page.

Mr Turnbull said the announcement followed extensive consultation.