Ab­bott in $ 4b aid for farm­ers

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - STEVEN SCOTT

FARM­ERS will be of­fered new tax perks and help with in­sur­ance costs as part of plan to guard against fu­ture droughts.

New dams and a range of drought as­sis­tance mea­sures will be at the cen­tre of the govern­ment’s long- awaited agriculture White Pa­per to be re­leased by Tony Ab­bott to­day.

In a pitch to the Na­tional Party’s ru­ral heart­land, Mr Ab­bott will com­mit to close to $ 4 bil­lion in spend­ing and loans over more than a decade.

An es­ti­mated $ 1.2 bil­lion will be spent over the next four years un­der the plan, although it is not yet clear when some of the in­fra­struc­ture and loan fund­ing will take ef­fect.

A new com­pe­ti­tion com­mis­sioner will be ap­pointed to help farm­ers get bet­ter prices for their pro­duce from large su­per­mar­kets like Coles and Wool­worths.

Farm­ers will also be given ac­cess to ad­vice on how to cre­ate co- op­er­a­tives and other busi­ness mod­els to boost their bar­gain­ing power.

The govern­ment last year flagged chang­ing com­pe­ti­tion laws to make it eas­ier for farm­ers to run that help them bar­gain for bet­ter prices.

Half a bil­lion dol­lars will be al­lo­cated to new dams – more than dou­bling the in­vest­ment pre­vi­ously an­nounced in the govern­ment’s re­cent north­ern Aus­tralia white pa­per. Farm­ers will be able to dou­ble the amount of money they can put into “farm man­age­ment de­posits” to $ 800,000.

The de­posits will al­low farm­ers to save tax and spread their in­come across good and bad sea­sons.

For the first time, farm­ers will also be al­lowed to use the de­posits to re­duce the in­ter­est on loans.

Con­ces­sional loans for drought- rav­aged farms will be guar­an­teed for eleven years, in an ex­ten­sion of ex­ist­ing as­sis­tance of­fered to large swathes of Queens­land and NSW.

Farm­ers will also get help cov­er­ing risk as­sess­ments for in­sur­ance so they can work out the cost of cov­er­ing their crops against ex­treme weather.

A suite of mea­sures will be aimed at boost­ing agri­cul­tural re­search, de­feat­ing pests and dis­eases and im­prov­ing biose­cu­rity checks.

Mr Ab­bott said the plans would help farm­ers boost their out­put and strengthen Aus­tralia’s ru­ral econ­omy.

“A strong agriculture sec­tor con­trib­utes to a strong econ­omy – and that means more jobs, more ex­ports, higher in­comes and bet­ter ser­vices to the com­mu­nity,” he said.

“We’re de­ter­mined to make the sec­tor even more com­pet­i­tive and to de­liver prac­ti­cal ac­tions that will keep our farm­ers and farm­ing fam­i­lies prof­itable and re­silient.”

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