​​Media Release

Drought concessional loans now open for SA farm businesses 

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce
Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Leon Bignell

15 October 2015

Applications are now open for drought-affected farmers in South Australia (SA) to apply for a Drought Concessional Loan under the 2015–16 round of the scheme.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and SA Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Leon Bignell, said $10 million in Drought Concessional Loans would be available to eligible South Australian farm businesses struggling with the effects of drought.

"These loans allow farmers facing hardship because of drought to restructure existing debt, or to fund operating expenses or drought preparedness and recovery activities," Minister Joyce said.

"Drought is one of the most significant challenges faced by our nation's farmers, and we are committed to ensuring practical, appropriate and tangible support reaches farmers on the ground.

"Farmers should not self-assess their eligibility for loans or other assistance—I strongly encourage any farmer thinking about applying for a concessional loan to contact Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), or to contact the Department of Human Services for information on a range of other support available to farmers struggling with drought."

There were 14 loan applications received from South Australian farmers in 2014-15, with a number of these still being assessed.

Minister Joyce said that the drought loan criteria for SA was consistent with the nationally agreed criteria in place for all jurisdictions, and his department would be pleased to work with PIRSA to ensure South Australian farmers had every opportunity to access these loans.

Minister Bignell said the State Government had been working closely with the Federal Government to ensure as many farmers as possible would be able to receive the support and help they needed.

"Minister Joyce and I have been working together, through our departments, on a system to assist as many people as possible," Minister Bignell said.

"As part of Round Two, PIRSA staff will be visiting affected regions to meet with farmers individually to discuss the scheme eligibility and application process.

"We believe this process will expedite eligible applications and get loans to farmers who are experiencing hardship as a result of the drought."

Minister Joyce said Australia's farmers made an important contribution to the nation's economy and to the Australian way of life.

"Investing in better drought preparedness and risk management is an investment in our nation's future prosperity and the stability of our rural communities," Minister Joyce said.

"Through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper we are committed to strengthening our approach to drought and risk management, and providing greater certainty to farmers about in-drought support.

"One way we are delivering on this is by continuing both drought-related concessional loans schemes during 2015‑16. We have also committed up to $250 million nationally each year for a new, streamlined concessional loans product that will be available for 10 years from 2016-17."​

The Australian Government is already delivering on several other key drought and hardship support and risk management measures under the Ag White Paper, including:

  • rolling out $20 million in additional funding for 2015-16 to expand access to community mental health and family support in drought-affected areas, with additional drought coordinators already at work
  • establishing a dedicated ATO hotline (13 11 42, select Option 3) to provide advice to drought-affected taxpayers—more than 6000 calls have already been made to this service
  • investing $3.3 million in a Bureau of Meteorology project to give farmers more localised, more accurate and more frequent seasonal forecasts—work has already commenced on the implementation of a new forecasting model and consultations are underway with users on their needs from the improved service
  • ​delivering the first $880,000 of our commitment of an additional $1.8 million in funding for Rural Financial Counselling Service providers in drought-affected areas, with the balance to be delivered by the end of this year.
For more information on the range of Australian Government assistance for farmers, farm businesses and rural communities, visit agriculture.gov.au/assistance.

For more information on the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, visit agwhitepaper.agriculture.gov.au.