GrainGrowers encourages farmers not to self-assess for drought relief

GrainGrowers encourages growers in drought affected regions to check their eligibility for FHA.
GrainGrowers encourages growers in drought affected regions to check their eligibility for FHA.

GrainGrowers has welcomed the Federal Government’s changes to the Farm Household Allowance this week.

The Federal Government’s announcement included an additional $12,000 for drought affected families ($7200 for singles) and improved eligibility for more farmers by increasing the asset cap from $2.6 million to $5 million.

GrainGrowers CEO David McKeon said GrainGrowers considered FHA a vital safety net for farmers affected by serious drought and particularly for those newer to farming who haven’t had time to build up resources and prepare fully for the drought they are now facing.

Mr McKeon said the additional support of $5 million for counsellors and $11.4 million in mental health support initiatives was also essential as the drought took not only a financial but a personal toll on all farmers and regional communities.

“GrainGrowers encourages growers in drought affected regions to check their eligibility for FHA,” said Mr McKeon.

“It is important that farmers don’t self assess. Many farmers don’t think they will qualify for this assistance, when in fact they might, particularly with recent changes to eligibility.

“The changes which the Government announced this week mean even more farmers are now eligible. FHA provides immediate support to keep farm families going through drought and I encourage farmers in need to apply for it. 

“Rural financial counsellors at a local level can assist with the application – whether a farmer chooses to go into the office, the counsellor comes to their home, or they make the application on line with the financial counsellor stepping them through the process via the telephone.”

GrainGrowers National Policy Group Members last week reported major concerns for the east coast harvest, with many areas of Queensland and New South Wales unlikely to get a crop. Coupled with this, the NPG is concerned about the financial ability of growers to put in the next crop, even if they can access seed and inputs, given the financial strain they are under and the high costs of planting.

“The vast majority of farmers had prepared adequately for this drought and have been improving their cropping systems in recent years to better manage risk," said Mr McKeon.

"However, the lack of rainfall over the past few months is unprecedented in many regions and it is vital farmers are supported through this extreme situation and given the opportunity to get back to what they do best – producing the grain Australia needs to feed our families, and our many overseas markets.”

Mr McKeon said the announcement complemented the Government’s recent extension of the FHA from three to four years.

He also praised the banks who have now followed Rural Bank’s lead in offering a Farm Management Deposit (FMD) offset to their customers.

“To date, NAB, CBA and Rabobank have enabled farmers to use the money in their FMD to offset interest on their loans.

“This is an important development which will assist farmers not only in the current drought, but in any future years of good and poor seasons. While many farmers unfortunately do not have the cash available to put into FMDs at this time, this relief will help ensure that recovery from the current drought is not extended unnecessarily.  

“We encourage Westpac and ANZ to follow suit and provide the opportunity for interest rate relief as farmers manage through the current drought.”