Drought-stricken and struggling farming families across Australia are expected to welcome the government’s four-week extension of the current Interim Farm Household Allowance application deadline to August 14.
Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce announced the new application deadline for farming families receiving the Interim Farm Household Allowance to transfer to the ongoing Farm Household Allowance (FHA) program.
It is believed many potential recipients of ongoing assistance had been unable to meet the previous July 14 deadline.
The FHA provides up to three years of household income support to eligible farmers and farming families and includes a Health Care Card, up to $1500 for professional financial advice and up to $3000 for professional support, advice or training.
Queensland’s AgForce has welcomed this week’s deadline extension for ongoing federal farm family support applications, but it is still lobbying for key changes to the Farm Household Allowance program.
AgForce senior policy advisor Dr Dale Miller said with 75 percent of the state still drought-declared a significant number of affected producers would welcome the application extension to August 14.
But it was important the FHA criteria was not a barrier to those needing assistance.
He said AgForce would like the Federal Government to re-examine FHA eligibility criteria.
“Particularly around the asset test; we would like to see essential farm assets excluded from the calculation, as was the case under the previous exceptional circumstances system.”
The arbitrary three-year time limit on assistance access should also be removed, Dr Miller said.
AgForce wants the net farm asset value limit of $2.55 million for FHA assistance removed, though there is an allowance for primary residences.
“Quite often those farm assets won’t be generating any income and people will be operating on a nil income for an extended period of time.
“We would like to see essential farm assets excluded – they are the tools of the trade,” he said.
“To expect primary producers to have to sell off pieces of that infrastructure which could compromise their longer term viability we think is a backward step.””
Minister Joyce said he didn’t want farming families who have already qualified for the interim payment to be disadvantaged because of administrative requirements.
“All Interim FHA recipients who lodge their applications by this date will be back-paid to 1 July 2014.
“As FHA is a legislated payment, separate to Interim FHA, it requires a new application to be lodged for eligibility to be properly assessed,” he said.
“However, applicants will not need to resupply documentation they have only recently provided to support their Interim FHA application– if the information remains current,” Mr Joyce said.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Marise Payne, strongly encouraged farming families not to delay in lodging their application for FHA.
“The sooner farmers and their partners lodge their applications, the sooner their payment can flow,” Minister Payne said.
Senator Payne said the easiest way to submit a claim for the FHA is online at humanservices.gov.au/online. Farmers can also download the claim forms from the Department of Human Services website.
“Anyone who wants to make sure they are providing the right information or who wants assistance should contact the Department of Human Services on the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday.”
Ministers Joyce and Payne thanked the Rural Financial Counselling Service for helping farmers access the FHA and ensuring farming families facing hardship didn’t miss out.
For more information on this and other support measures for farmers and farming businesses go to daff.gov.au/assistance. Claim forms can be found at humanservices.gov.au/farmhouseholdallowance or by calling the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316.