Loans for drought stricken farmers on the way

THE three-month wait for $280 million of concessional loans for drought-stricken farmers is almost over, with Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce finally finishing talks with state governments.

Mr Joyce on Wednesday said the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority had confirmed the criteria for the 4% interest rate loans would be available in coming days.

Despite Mr Joyce and Prime Minister Tony Abbott touring regional Queensland at the time, and declaring the drought an "emergency" and a "disaster", Mr Joyce said he could not have released the funds earlier.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the delay had raised hopes for farming families struggling with the drought, and Mr Joyce on Wednesday was still unable to say when the money would flow.

The $280 million pool of funds will now be dished out, while family assistance funds has already been taken up by 1200 farming families and mental health services promised in February are already underway.

But Mr Joyce could not confirm issues around the "viability criteria" of the loans, particularly in Queensland, where producers have previously missed out as they could not meet the criteria.

Among those critical of the criteria earlier this year was Maranoa MP Bruce Scott, who said western Queensland producers were missing out because they had no ongoing income due to the ravages of the drought on stock numbers.

Mr Joyce said he believed it was not his place to tell the QRAA what to do on the viability criteria "from Canberra", but said he hoped any outstanding issues would be addressed.

Some $100 million loans will now be offered through Queensland, with $100 million for New South Wales authorities, while other states will share in the $80 million remaining in the fund.



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