AgForce has welcomed a review of Farm Household Allowance to ensure drought-affected farmers can access and make the most of the assistance available to get them through tough times.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin says 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.”
The recent announcement extends the allowance from three to four years and the Federal Government has announced a review of the scheme as well.
Mr Guerin says AgForce support the Federal Agriculture Minister’s comments that 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.”
“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 says 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.
“Drought has such a big impact on Australian agriculture and extended dry periods are a recurring feature so we need governments at all levels and politicians on all sides to come together with industry to work on a sustainable approach to managing this issue now and into the future.”
More details about AgForce’s proposed ‘Agricultural Business Cycle’ approach to drought policy is available at www.agforceqld.org.au under ‘Advocacy and Policy’.