LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin is seeking a review of some guidelines which make it harder for Northern Rivers and Northern Tablelands farmers to access the $75,000 Primary Producer Grant to help them recover from flood, bushfire or storm events.
Ms Saffin said this was a long-standing bugbear for local primary producers, many of whom had complained to her about having grant applications denied, shutting them out of vital Category D Natural Disaster Assistance.
“I’ve raised two main issues with NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders and Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Senator Murray Watt, who also has responsibility for Emergency Management,” Ms Saffin said.
“The first one is more generous up-front payments of the grant. The Small Business Disaster Recovery Grant at least provides an up-front payment to eligible applicants of $25,000 or 50 per cent of the total $50,000. I was able to lobby to have it increased from zero to $25,000.
“Why not increase the up-front payment for the $75,000 Primary Producer Grant from $15,000 to $37,500 so farmers can get access to the funds they need for urgent clean-up and recovery costs?”
Ms Saffin said she had also put it to the Agriculture Ministers that the eligibility criteria of having to draw at least 50 per cent of gross income from a primary production enterprise is draconian and too high a bar.
“This antiquated off-farm income rule does not recognise the economic reality that it is commonplace for one partner to be working off farm so that they can continue farming,” Ms Saffin said.
“Some relaxation of this criteria to a more reasonable percentage is long overdue so we as a nation and state do not effectively make our agricultural sector a more marginal proposition for people keen to work within it and see it grow.”
Ms Saffin urged peak bodies representing primary producers to keep pressure on both governments to review the guidelines.