As Queensland finally begins to emerge from one of the worst droughts in living memory, the Australian Government has allocated the state an additional $15 million to bolster the recovery effort, allowing farmers to access up to $2 million in low interest drought assistance loans through QRAA.
Drought Concessional Loans allow producers to manage existing debt, while Drought Recovery Concessional Loans help to fund restocking, replanting and building future drought resilience.
“Over the past few years, hundreds of Queensland producers have taken advantage of this assistance, using it to put recovery plans into action and secure the future of their operations,” said QRAA Chief Executive Officer, Cameron MacMillan.
“Since 2014, over $141 million has been approved under these schemes. The $15 million top-up will allow us to help even more hard-working farmers overcome harsh conditions.”
Farmers can access up to $1 million from each scheme to manage and recover from drought, with applications closing 31 October 2016.
“Restructuring debt has given farm businesses breathing room during the drought but with conditions now improving, producers are getting a new injection of funds to support replanting and rebuilding herds – generating much needed revenue,” Mr MacMillan said.
One grower who has already accessed this assistance is Burdekin Canegrowers chairman, Phil Marano.
Mr Marano accessed a Drought Concessional Loan from QRAA in early 2016. He strongly recommends others partner with QRAA to reduce the financial pressures of drought.
“I’ve been spreading the word to others in the region about the benefits of the Drought Loans from QRAA and encouraging them to speak with QRAA about their refinancing options,” he said.
Mr MacMillan says that the recent unseasonal rainfall, though welcome, has been causing confusion among producers who believe they may no longer be eligible – a thought that can be disheartening, when the impact is still being felt.
“It’s a common misconception that our assistance is only available to those in state-declared drought areas” Mr MacMillan said.
“In reality, we use rainfall deficiency data from the Bureau of Meteorology when assessing applications – so whether your drought status has been revoked or you were never officially declared to be ‘in drought,’ you may still be eligible for these loans.”
At the other end of the scale, farmers yet to benefit from sufficient rain are reminded that the Drought Recovery loans, with an interest rate of 2.66 per cent, have a unique pre-approval process to allow producers to get back on their feet as quickly as possible.
“This means that you can apply for the funds now, and be ready to start restocking or replanting when conditions improve,” Mr MacMillan said.
“Knowing that the money will be there when you need it makes recovery planning easier.”
Potential applicants are urged not to self-assess, and to contact their local Client Liaison Officer (CLO) who can walk them through the requirements and application process.
“Peter Crowley [CLO for North Queensland] was great to deal with,” Mr Marano said. “He provided all the information I needed and it was helpful to have someone in the region I could meet with about my application.”
Producers can find more information and start the application process by visiting www.qraa.qld.gov.au