NSW and Queensland farmers will be able to apply for cheap drought loans, but uncertainty remains about the rest of the nation’s farmers.
Drought-stricken farmers are finally getting access to a $200 million loans package promised by the federal government three months ago.
But only farmers in parts of Queensland and NSW will be able to take advantage of the cheap finance.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says applications for the drought concessional loan scheme are “ready to roll”.
But he acknowledged it had taken longer than expected.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the $320 million drought package after visiting drought-hit parts of the two states in February.
Mr Joyce said the scheme had been delayed by negotiations on who could access the loans and how the states would administer them.
Arrangements have been settled, including a new definition of drought that replaces exceptional circumstances.
Doubt remains about when drought-affected farmers in other states will be able access the loans pool.
Their share of the pool is $80 million. The NSW and Queensland pools each have $100 million.
The remaining $40 million of the package will go towards programs including water management, pest control and mental health services.
Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon accused Mr Joyce of disappointing farmers by suggesting help was on its way, and soon.
The real test for the government was when farmers get the promised help.
“The minister said soon … whatever that means,” Mr Fitzgibbon told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.