Premier announces further drought funding during rural visit

FUNDS FOR FARMS: Ben Langtry at his Marrar property 'Trefalga', outside the shed that was purchased through the state government's interest-free loan arrangement. Picture: Emma Horn
FUNDS FOR FARMS: Ben Langtry at his Marrar property 'Trefalga', outside the shed that was purchased through the state government's interest-free loan arrangement. Picture: Emma Horn

Riverina farmers have welcomed further drought-relief funding from the state government.

Arriving in Coolamon on Tuesday, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and deputy premier John Barilaro were joined by the agriculture minister Adam Marshall, treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Cootamundra state member Steph Cooke in giving a teaser for the next week's funding commitments.

An extra $355 million will be extended to drought-effected communities over the next four years, adding to the $400 million that was promised during the May election.

Across the state, it brings the total drought funding to $1.8 billion.

Asked why the funding commitment was not a consideration during the campaign, Mr Perrottet affirmed his hope that the drought would be considered "above politics" and would be given bipartisan support.

"This is the centrepiece [of the budget], our regional and rural communities are doing it tough," Mr Perrottet said.

It was an announcement that was applauded by Marrar farmer Ben Langtry, whose family have owned and operated their mixed farming property for the past 60 years.

Having grown up on the land, Mr Langtry affirmed that the situation this year has been one of the worst he has witnessed.

"Last year, our yields were down about a third on our long-term average," he said.

"We had 24mm fall overnight, and that's been our second best rainfall for the year - the best was in April. It's keeping our crops and ground wet, and it'll be good until about the beginning of spring. But it's still too early to tell what our return will be this year. We had no moisture in the soil from summer, so we really are living from rain to rain."

Last year, Mr Langtry and his family applied for state funding to build a 20m storage shed on their farm. The cost of $40,000 was provided through drought assistance, and will allow the family to stockpile feed in the future.

"We don't want to be an industry that is relying on handouts, we want to be self-sustainable so any measure that is about future-proofing against the drought is good," Mr Langtry said.

Ms Berejiklian confirmed the intention to use the funds to generate economic growth among the smaller communities. But Mr Langtry acknowledged some concerns over that approach.

"The incentives to spend money when we don't have much to spend is a worry," he said.

"It's hard to take full advantage of that during a drought. I would love to see those kinds of incentive schemes at a time when there is no drought, when there is more money about to spend on future-proofing."