Grants of up to $75,000 will be made available to farmers in bushfire-affected areas, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.
Mr Morrison said the category D assistance, which was made available to graziers in far north Queensland following last year’s floods, will be available for those in bushfire-affected regions.
Mr Morrison said $100 million would be committed from the $2 billion bushfire recovery fund to pay for the grants.
“This is an estimate. It is not a cap. This will be a demand-driven program,” Mr Morrison said.
He said the grants would help farmers to deal with “immediate needs”.
“That can be everything from sheds and fences, or it could be equipment, it could be the solar panels that actually power their pumping facilities on the dams, or anything of this nature,” he said.
Mr Morrison said farmers would not need to have their primary residence affected by the fire to be eligible for the funding, which will be administered by state governments.
He also said that off-farm income of up to $100,000 would be exempt when assessing eligibility for the grants.
Infrastructure a large focus
Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said there were 19,000 farming, forestry, and fishing businesses in burned-out areas.
“It is not just livestock losses,” Ms McKenzie said.
“It is oyster sheds on the Clyde River. It’s what’s going to happen to those type of enterprises once the charcoal and ash, after a good rain, ends up in our waterways. It is our Batlow apple farmers. It is our wine industry in the Adelaide Hills, our sheep and beef producers more broadly, and our dairy industry.”
Ms McKenzie said the eligibility criteria for the grants was still being determined.
“The eligibility criteria will be incredibly simple because our goal is to get cash on the ground to the farmers so they can actually get on with the rebuilding,” Ms McKenzie said.
“This is what we’ve been hearing is absolutely needed on the ground — cash payments to hire local contractors to get the job done so we can get back to producing food.”
Similar grants, administered in far north Queensland last year, were administered by the North Queensland Livestock Recovery Agency.
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Graziers there said the money flowed quickly and widely welcomed the program.
As part of the announcement in Canberra, Mr Morrison said 60 rural financial counsellors would be funded at a cost of $15 million from the bushfire recovery fund.
He said the positions were in addition to rural financial counsellor roles already funded by the Government in drought-affected areas.