MY MONEY

A guide to drought relief packages for struggling farmers

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Confused about what is available under drought relief by the federal and state governments? You are not alone.

More than 60% of eligible farmers haven't taken advantage of the federal government's latest drought relief measure known as Farm Household Allowance (FHA).

Some 30,000 farmers can tap into $13,000 immediate relief payment for a family and up to $7500 for individuals, according to the government. But according to the Department of Agriculture some 22,500 are yet to claim the allowances that were made more accessible on October 17 this year.

Australian-farmer-Richard-Gillham-checks-his-phone-for-weather-updates-after-feeding-his-sheep-in-a-drought-affected-paddock-on-his-property-Barbers-Lagoon.jpg
Richard Gillham is a sixth-generation sheep farmer, who has been buying feed at $1000 per day for more than two years to keep his stock alive on his property Barber's Lagoon near Boggabri in north-wes

For more information see agriculture.gov.au/fha or call the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316.

Also there is a $3000 financial assistance package to eligible farming households who are facing hardship because of the drought. This includes local businesses as well.

The new measure called Drought Community Support Initiative - Round 2 was announced on September 27, 2019, for farmers who live in a qualifying local government area.

A-sheep-drinks-from-a-water-trough-after-eating-feed-that-Australian-farmer-Richard-Gillham-dropped-in-a-drought-affected-paddock-on-his-property-Barbers-Lagoon.jpg
A sheep drinks from a trough on Richard Gillham's drought-affected paddock on his property near Boggabri, NSW. Photo: David Gray

It can be accessed through the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul Society to cover groceries, car maintenance, energy and utility bills, health and medical expenses.

To find out more visit salvationarmy.org,au/drought or call on 1300 551 030. Or apply at Vinnies online at vinnies.org.au or call 13 18 12.

Free counselling services are available for farmers, fishers, forest growers, harvesters and small-related businesses in financial hardship.

The confidential counselling comes from the Rural Financial Counselling Services. It is designed to help people deal with their issues and identify their options. For more information call 1800 686 175 or visit agriculture.gov.au/rfcs.

Other drought relief initiatives announced are for local councils, communities, schools, and childcare in drought-affected areas.

Councils can tap into the Drought Communities Program to receive up to $1 million while communities can apply for grants under the Tackling Tough Times Together for up to $150,000.

Rather than offering cash payments, state governments are offering loans, grants and subsidies to farmers in drought regions.

Some loans have recently been made more generous by waiving interest payments such as the NSW Drought Assistance Fund, which is a $50,000 interest free loan to transport stock, fodder and water.

The loan term is seven years with no repayments due in the first two years..

Sheep-eat-feed-that-Australian-farmer-Richard-Gillham-dropped-in-a-drought-affected-paddock-on-his-property-Barbers-Lagoon.jpg
The Bureau of Meteorology has declared the ongoing drought across the Murray Darling Basin to be the worst on record. Photo: David Gray

In Queensland farmers can be eligible for freight subsidies for transporting fodder, water, installing water infrastructure up to $20,000 initially but this can be extended to $50,000.

For more information and to apply for loans visit ric.gov.au or call 1800 875 675. Check with your state government.

The Australian Taxation Office is providing tailored assistance to drought-affected communities to help people manage their tax affairs and obligations. Call 1800 806 218 or visit ato.gov.au/drought for more information.

Also many banks say they are offering assistance to their drought-affected customers, including deferral of loan payments, waiving of fees and loan restructuring. Contact your bank to seek advice and to discuss options.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.
Comments
ElizaAnne Ferguson
January 20, 2020 3.07pm

What is being done about Australia's fast declining beef and sheep breeding females.?

Australia's core breeders are disappearing so fast I have trouble seeing how farmers will be able to recover. Farmers everywhere have already lost from 50%, perhaps 70%, or most or even all of their breeding females.

There is no real help to feed whats left so they are being sent off in truckloads to slaughter when farmers run out of money.

Now with the frightening destruction of these recent fires this situation has become suddenly far worse.

This is an urgent situation and needs addressing right now before any more females are killed.

Our country need to think carefully how we can help farmers who have no funds left but are desperately trying to feed a core breeding herd or flock in order to be able to get going again after drought.

Loans are not the answer, for many loans will only exacerbate the problem. Little or no income trying to pay back a loan is madness.

Our government needs to do some serious thinking and planning on just how important our farmers and our national herd and flocks are, and what they are going to do about it.

If our Government don't step in then maybe the wonderful Aussie public can help them decide.

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