A $284 million boost in support will be just the start if the drought gripping NSW continues, Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair says.
Mr Blair joined Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro at the Cox’s Rosewood property north of Dubbo on Wednesday to unveil the funding to be provided in the NSW Budget next week.
It’s the Premier’s second visit to Dubbo in as many months as region faces a drought some predict could last until 2025.
The Farm Innovation Fund received a $250 million boost to provide farmers with low-interest loans of up to $250,000 to improve farm infrastructure, and seven-year interest-free loans of up to $50,000 for fodder, grain, freight or key water infrastructure.
More than $4 million will provide mental health support for communities facing natural disaster and drought.
Mr Blair said the new measures were just the beginning, particularly if farmers missed the current planting window.
“If we are still in drought in seven years’ time, you won’t have me standing here talking about what we’re doing today; there’ll be a lot of other opportunities for us as a government,” he said.
“This is the message today. This is the second time in as many months that we've made some changes to our drought policy here in NSW. That is because … we have been responsive to what farmers have asked for, we have been agile and we will continue to do so.
“If we miss the planting window in the next few weeks, you'll hear more and more of us talking about how we can support our farmers coming into spring, particularly if we don't get a break there.”
For the first time, farmers will also be able to access the loans to bio-bank the genetics of their herd that would otherwise be lost during destocking.
“This is about making sure that those bloodlines that have been managed on farms and built up over generations can continue,” Mr Blair said.
“It’s a more responsive and quicker way to be able to get that genetic stock on the ground when the drought breaks.”
The Cox family have received just 80 millimetres so far in 2018, after well below-average rainfall in 2017.
Dennis Cox said “we’ve seen plenty of droughts but this is the worst”.
But he urged people to remain positive.
“It will rain again,” Mr Cox said.
“The opportunity to make money out of sheep ... is the greatest it’s been in my life.
“You’ve got to manage your farm to the best of what you’ve learnt … you’ve got to be confident that it will rain and that we will get a return.”