Local MP Darren Chester has welcomed changes that promise to better help drought-affected farmers seeking financial assistance from the Federal Government.
Mr Chester said many farmers had raised concerns with him about the complexity of the application process to receive the Farm Household Allowance (FHA).
“Farmers were telling me the application process was too complex and some who needed help were getting discouraged and giving up,” Mr Chester said.
Mr Chester attended a meeting held in Bairnsdale at which an expert panel appointed to review the FHA met with local farmers.
“The feedback provided during this meeting has helped to shape the advice the panel has provided to the Federal Government on the most appropriate way to support drought-affected farmers and their families,” Mr Chester said.
“Those comments, both positive and negative, have helped the government to develop programs and policies that actually make a difference in people’s lives.
“And while there has been rain and much attention has been on the bushfires, we can’t forget that many of our farmers are still doing it tough and we need to do what we can to help them.”
Legislation has been introduced into Parliament to cut more red tape from the Farm Household Allowance application process. The changes include:
- business income reconciliation will not be necessary in the new financial year, so farming families are not put in debt if they receive unexpected income; and
- case managers will also be able to extend the time farmers have to complete farm financial assessments so they don’t miss out on support in complex cases.
Minister for Agriculture and Drought David Littleproud said the Government was committed to making sure farmers could access the allowance when they needed it.
“I don’t want farmers jumping through hoops when it’s not needed,” Minister Littleproud said. “We’ve taken several recommendations from a farmer-led panel to make the FHA applications more straightforward.
“These changes build on improvements we’ve made over the past 12 months, such as letting couples apply for the FHA in a single online application – telling their story once.
“Farmers making a loss can also offset their off-farm income up to $100,000 per couple. We’ve made FHA available for four out of 10 years, instead of a three year lifetime limit.
“We’ve also made relief payments for people finishing their first four years of FHA in recognition of the extended drought and unprecedented natural events.”