Abbott in $ 4b aid for farmers
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.”