QUEENSLAND’S AgForce has welcomed a proposed review of the Farm Household Allowance to ensure drought-affected farmers can access and make the most of available assistance.
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud recently announced farmers could receive a fourth year of assistance from the FHA, up from three years, and today said a review of the program would identify why many farmers have not applied for it.
“The Department of Agriculture estimates there may be 19,000 farmers eligible for Farm Household Allowance who have not applied for it.
“That prompted me to ask the question, why?” he said.
“We need to know the answer and this review will provide it. I’ve called again and again for farmers not to self-assess whether they qualify for the FHA.
“Farmers need to use the free help we provide–Rural Financial Counsellors–and talk through it with them,” he said
AgForce chief executive officer Michael Guerin said more than half of Queensland was still drought declared and the prolonged nature of the drought in the state was taking an enormous financial, emotional and environmental toll on many regional communities.
“The Farm Household Allowance helps farmers who have had little or no income put food on the table and meet essential expenses, so it is vital the program is working as effectively as possible.
“AgForce welcomed the recent announcement of an extension of the allowance from three to four years and we are pleased the Federal Government is going further to conduct a review as well,” he said.
Mr Guerin said farmers should not self-assess whether they qualify for the allowance and to seek advice from rural financial counsellors.
“The ongoing nature of the drought in Queensland has overwhelmed even the best efforts of producers to prepare and the mental well-being of communities is greatly affected by the lack of rainfall,” he said.
“AgForce urges the Federal Government to consider increasing the farm asset cap or excluding essential farm assets as applied under the previous Exceptional Circumstances system to make the Farm Household Allowance more accessible.
“We would also like to see greater ongoing public reporting of farmer surveys assessing the effectiveness of the program, and for this to be expanded to include a 12 month voluntary follow-up interview about transitional experiences, particularly for those who leave agriculture.”
Mr Guerin said other priorities that could provide immediate relief to affected communities include investment in capital works projects, council rates and land rent rebates, increased education support for children from remote areas, and more secure, long term mental health funding.