Drought pilot gets $44 million boost

Countryman

WA has picked up more than $44 million from the Federal Budget to extend the drought pilot program.

The Liberal-National Government has reached an agreement with the Federal Government to extend and expand the pilot, aimed at building farm business resilience. It will now cover all of the South West.

On top of the Federal contribution, the State Government will invest $11 million, comprising $8 million allocated in the State Budget.

However, the remaining $3 million is set to come from money already allocated elsewhere in the agricultural portfolio.

“This is part of the State Government’s commitment to building a more profitable, dynamic and resilient farming sector,” Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said.

“Under phase two, an additional 800 farm businesses can access a training program that will give them the financial and managerial skills to make the best business decisions possible amid fluctuating markets and tough climatic conditions.

“In addition, more than 650 Building Farm Businesses grants will be made available.”

More than 300 farming families had already accessed Farm Family Support measures under the pilot, Mr Redman said.

This measure will continue under the expanded pilot.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam said he hoped the extension of the drought pilot would lead to the adoption of the program across Australia.

WAFarmers senior vice-president Dale Park said the benefits of the extension to the drought pilot hinged on whether another drought occurred this year. He said if one eventuated, WA farmers may be ineligible for exceptional circumstances.

The expanded pilot will comprise six main areas, including farm planning workshops, grants of $30,000 to enhance skills in business planning and farm family support.

It will also include farm exit grants of up to $170,000, training and support for small, rural businesses and income support for those at need.

The WA Government will fund and administer the Farm Planning and Stronger Rural Communities components, in addition to the Building Farm Businesses component with grant funds provided by the Federal Government.

Independently of the drought pilot, the State Government will also contribute $1.5 million to the Pathways to Resilience program.

The program aims to improve farm profit by lifting total farm productivity for agricultural areas receiving less than 350mm annual rainfall.

“This program is about providing the technologies and management tools to build more profitable and resilient farm businesses in low to medium rainfall areas of the WA grainbelt,” Mr Redman said.

It is expected workshops that aim to help farmers use climate management tools will be rolled out across the Wheatbelt in 2011–12.

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