Local drought support unclear

Local rural financial counsellors have not yet been given the finer details of the $320 million drought support package announced this morning. 

Although Tony Abbott and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce announced that greater support will be made available for farmers across Australia, it is not clear how much of the package will find its way into the Manning Valley.

A large proportion of the package - $280 million - is for Drought Concessional Loans.

Earlier today (Wednesday), local member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie announced that farmers in the electorate of Lyne can apply for government assistance from Monday.

As the Manning Valley is not drought declared, much of the financial assistance offered to farmers over recent weeks has not been available locally.

However, some local farmers have been applying for the Transitional Farm Family Payment - an income support payment to help farm families with low incomes to meet basic household needs.

Existing Transitional Farm Family Payment recipients will now be automatically transferred to the Interim Farm Household Allowance (Interim FHA) from February 28. 

The Interim FHA, like the Transitional Farm Family Payment  will be paid at a fortnightly rate equivalent to the Newstart Allowance. The difference now appears to be a different asset test which may mean more farmers will be able to access the income support.

Payments under the Interim FHA start from March 3 for new applicants. It is unclear if families who previously received the Transitional Farm Family Payment and whose payment has already ceased, will be eligible to apply for the Interim FHA as well.

Dr David Gillespie urges farmers in the Lyne to not self assess and to talk to a rural financial counsellor. 

Andrew Ellem, a north coast rural financial counsellor based in Taree said his team is finding out as much as they can about the new package. He suggests farmers call 13 23 16 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm local time) for further information about the Interim FHA. Or go online to: human services.gov.au/rural.

The Drought support for farmers fact sheet can be found online at: