FARMERS will have access to the Farm Household Allowance simplified under changes introduced to parliament by the Federal Government this week.
The changes introduced in a bill by Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie include a simplified assets test, a redesigned application process and form allowing farming couples to apply on the same form and a strengthened case management approach to better support farmers in hardship through periods of financial difficulty.
The government said the bill was in response to the Independent Review of FHA and will enable more than 30,000 farmers to access immediate support. It amends the Farm Household Support Act 2014 and the Farm Household Support Minister’s Rule 2014.
Ms McKenzie said the changes extended farming families’ access the FHA from three years in their lifetime to four years out of every 10, recognising that farmers experience hardships, including droughts, more than once in their lives.
“Our government has listened to farmers throughout the independent review and proactively responded to all the recommendations.
“Today, the Government introduces a Bill to provide drought relief for those who have exhausted their four years on FHA,” Minister McKenzie said.
“The bill will also allow for farmers to receive the FHA payment four years in every decade; make it easier for more farmers to access the payment by lifting the amount families can earn off-farm to $100,000 a year; and allow farmers to count income from adjustment against their losses.
“These changes reflect the nature of contemporary farming businesses – by recognising the reality that much of the income earned off-farm goes straight to servicing debt rather than putting food on the table,” she said.
“Our farming families don’t need to be worrying about how to pay the bills and feeding their families whilst they are struggling to feed their livestock and making tough decisions about their long-term future.
“A one-off drought relief payment of up to $13,000 for a farming family, and up to $7,500 for an individual is designed to help people determine whether they will be sustainable, should look at succession options or, in some instances choose to sell,’ Ms McKenzie said.
“For the first time, we’ll link farm enterprises with their directly-related businesses and consider income and losses together – not just income – a big change in how Government support payments are provided to families.
“Our government had already made changes to make the FHA quicker and easier to access by reducing paperwork by a third and by temporarily increasing farm assets threshold to $5 million from 1 July 2019.
“It is all part of the radical simplification of the FHA application process and key policy settings that the Prime Minister announced on 27 September.”
The Rebuilding the FHA: a better way forward for supporting farmers in financial hardship – an independent review of the Farm Household Allowance” was led by Tasmanian dairy farmer Michele Lawrence, AgForce president and Queensland beef producer Georgie and Professor of Economics at the University of Sydney Prof. Robert Slonim.
The FHA has been supporting Australian farmers since July 2014. It has paid more than $365 million to around 12,700 recipients in that time.
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