Task force established to tackle ongoing financial impacts of drought

A NEW drought finance task force, established on Wednesday, will bring major agricultural lenders, the government and the National Farmers' Federation together to look at ways to help drought-stricken farmers.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who will chair the new group, wants to ensure affected communities are given the best possible chance.

"This is the wrong time to be hitting them with extra charges," he said in Sydney on Wednesday.

"This is the wrong time to be foreclosing on them. This is the wrong time to do anything which makes their viability as a business that much more difficult."

Member for New England and Special Envoy for Drought Assistance Recovery, Barnaby Joyce, will also join the task force.

He says it will leverage resources and share insights on ways in which the government and banks could further support farmers and small businesses across the New England, North West and Upper Hunter regions.

“I know first-hand the effect these conditions are having on our local communities, I was in Merriwa just the other week where I heard and saw the toll this drought is having on farming businesses and local families,” Mr Joyce said.

“This Taskforce is important because it’s another way for government, business and industry to work as a team and ensure that they are not only receiving the most up-to-date information from places like Merriwa, from places like Bingara, or Walcha, or Tamworth, but also able to respond quickly, so farmers and local small businesses in the New England receive the additional support they need, as soon as possible.

“What’s more, the taskforce will factor in and respond to the seriousness of the drought on local small businesses as well as farmers, as we know many of our shops, cafes and hairdressers, depend on farming activities.”

The taskforce will include the Treasurer who will serve as chair, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources who will serve as deputy chair, special envoy for drought, Barnaby Joyce, regional Queensland Member of Parliament John McVeigh, a senior representative from the National Farmers Federation (NFF) and a senior representative from ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank, the National Australia Bank, Rabobank and Westpac.

The Drought Finance Taskforce aims to:

leverage government, business and industry resources in New England to further determine the impact that the drought has had or is having on our farmers and local small businesses;

establish mechanisms to share insights in a timely manner; and

advise the Government, bank CEOs and the NFF on drought impacts as well as further measures that could help alleviate the impact on our farmers and local small businesses.