NATIONALS MP and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has told Riverina and Central West farmers  he and the Federal Government have their back as he joined Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to announce another $250 million in drought relief, taking the total assistance package so far to $1.8 billion.

The assistance, announced in Forbes today, provides immediate relief to communities, tax breaks for fodder storage and simplifying the application form for Farm Household allowance.

“Our region has areas badly affected by drought throughout the Riverina electorate,” Mr McCormack said.

“But I want those local farmers, those local communities, to know we have their back.

“I am working very, very closely with the Prime Minister, with the Agriculture Minister, with the Regional Development Minister, to make sure we’ve got the measures right.”

Mr McCormack had a special message for Riverina and Central West farmers and their families.

“We are very much focused on making sure we are with our farming communities all the way,” Mr McCormack said.

“Agriculture is a very big part of the Riverina and Central West and we will make sure we continue to closely monitor it and I will, too, as the Local Member and make sure we certainly continue to have the farmers’ backs.”

Mr McCormack said the Drought Communities Programme would be expanded to help support drought-affected Councils provide immediate and short-term support for their communities.

The grants will also allow Councils to employ local contractors to undertake repairs and maintenance, upgrade or build new community facilities and hold events and undertake drought-relief activities.

The Government is also delivering tax relief to help farmers invest in fodder storage and doubling the amount available for farmers to borrow in low-interest loans from the Regional Investment Corporation from $1m to $2m.

Last month, the Government announced $190 million in measures, including a Farm Household Allowance boost payment of $12,000 per couple, bringing this year’s assistance to $37,000, and a $7,200 boost for singles, bringing this year’s assistance to $22,000.

The Government also increased the net threshold cap for Farm Household Allowance from $2.6m to $5m, giving access to thousands more farming families, and provided another $5 million to the Rural Financial Counselling Service to provide additional support for farmers, particularly those applying for the allowance for the first time.

Shane Manning