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Farm assistance paperwork is 'too onerous'

Eliza Rogers/Lydia Burton, Thursday April 17, 2014 - 12:57 EST
Audience submitted image
Rural families are applying for help to keep their households ticking over. - Audience submitted

Federal and State Government officials say they're finalising financial support for rural families, but some farmers it's too difficult to access.

Yesterday, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the February funding for the Farm Finance Concessional Loan Scheme was close to completion, and the Queensland Agriculture Minister said he was ready to deliver the most recent allocations.

Because of drought, there's been a large uptake of the Farm Household Allowance in Queensland, which includes a fortnightly payment equivalent to the Newstart Allowance and a Health Care Card.

David Arnold, manager of the Rural Financial Counselling Service for Queensland's central/southern region, says applications have skyrocketed, with quicker uptake in the south than in the west.

He says there are several explanations, including some producers' failure to pass the net assets test, capacity to deal with climate variations, and varying rural populations.

"You would have to say the number of primary producer enterprises in the north-west/Gulf is smaller in number than those other (southern) regions."

He says lack of awareness is also a problem.

Despite the strong interest, farmers say the application process is a big deterrent.

South Burnett cattle and hay farmer Claire Kapernick lodged her application this week, but says the paperwork is too onerous.

"We held off because I was worried about all the forms - I have about half an inch to an inch thick of forms... you need to be fresh in your mind and producers aren't at the moment."

She says industry staff helping with the paperwork are spending up to seven hours with each applicant and are stretched thin.

Duplication is another obstacle. Ms Kapernick says she's had to produce detailed proof of identification to Centrelink despite having a customer reference number.

However, she says she's grateful for the assistance.

An Interim Farm Household Allowance has been available since March 3, with the official allowance taking effect from July 1.

State Agriculture Minister John McVeigh says the finalisation of the Federal State Farm Finance package agreement is now in the hands of the Federal Government.


- ABC

© ABC 2014

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