More farmers can access FHA
More farmers will be eligible to access to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) following amendments passed by the Senate this week.
NSW Nationals Senator Perin Davey said the changes were necessary given the ongoing nature of the drought and its cumulative impact on farming families.
“It is important right now to note that the FHA is not just about drought. It is available to farmers facing hardship regardless of whether it is caused by drought, bushfire or flood,” Senator Davey said.
“That is why these changes are so important. Instead of a once in a lifetime payment for three years, as it was under Labor, it is now available four in every 10 years. That’s in recognition that droughts, floods and fire don’t just happen once.
“Right now, with this drought ongoing we also have provision for lump sum payments if people reach the end of their time limit and still need assistance.
“It also means that those whose time on FHA expires this financial year can receive up to $13,000 a couple or $7500 a single person before the end of the financial year. For those who have already exited, the payments should be in eligible farmer’s pockets by Christmas.
“And if the drought keeps going, the Minister can make further lump sum payments available in the future.”
The amendments also raise the limit for off-farm income to enable farmers who have more debt than income can count that income, up to $100,000, against their on-farm business losses.
“This is a really important change because it gives farming families more flexibility to diversify their income without fear of losing their FHA,” Senator Davey said.
“It is also important that farmers take advantage of the Rural Financial Counsellor network to help them apply and then work with them to review their business.
“The Rural Financial Counsellors play a really important role in this process. I really encourage people not to self-assess. If they feel financially stressed, they should seek advice and get their FHA application in.
“We estimate these changes will see a further 30,000 farmers eligible for FHA.”
Senator Davey said the changes to the FHA complement the other drought measures the Government has implemented including extending Regional Investment Corporation loans to agricultural businesses and extending the Drought Communities Program.
“Our first priority is to support people in the here and now, and that is what the FHA and the no-low interest loans are for. We are also supporting communities funding local government projects,” she said.
“And we are the first Government to look to the future and that is what the Drought Future Fund is about and we are calling for feedback on that program now.”