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Government offers one-off payment for farmers coming off Farm Household Allowance

By national rural reporter Kath Sullivan, Thursday October 17, 2019 - 17:29 EDT
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Ms McKenzie says the payment will help farmers determine if they are sustainable or should sell. - ABC

Farmers coming off welfare will be entitled to a new, one-off payment of $13,000 for families and $7,500 for individuals.

The payment will be available to farmers forced off the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) before July 2020 because they have exceeded the time limit permitted to receive the payments.

The Coalition announced the contribution in Canberra today, as legislation to extend the FHA was introduced to Parliament.

The , provided via Centrelink, paid to farmers experiencing hardship.

despite much of the country experiencing drought.

Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the one-off payment was "designed to help people determine whether they will be sustainable, should look at succession options, or in some instances choose to sell."

Better access to payments

During the 2019 election the Coalition promised it would extend the FHA so that farmers could access it for four years in ten.

"Right now you can receive it for four years over your lifetime. If you're a farmer in this country you're going to see hardship a lot more than just once in your lifetime," Ms McKenzie said.

"So we're making that four years out of ten you will be eligible for Farm Household Allowance."

It followed a decision by former agriculture minister David Littleproud last year to extend the FHA to four years, up from three.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said drought-affected farmers that had exceeded the limit should be allowed to continue to receive the FHA.

He said it was a "callous act" to rule farmers ineligible for the FHA during the current drought just because they had already received it for four years.

"It's the greatest act of bastardry by any government in the history of the federation," he said.

The legislation before the Parliament also seeks to amend the FHA eligibility criteria so that farmers can earn up to $100,000 a year, up from $80,000, in off-farm income and still receive the FHA.

"These changes reflect the nature of contemporary farming businesses by recognising the reality that much of the income earned off-farm goes straight to servicing debt rather than putting food on the table," Ms McKenzie said.

Peak body welcomes 'different types of help'

The National Farmers' Federation has "acknowledged" the support.

"It really is a day-by-day proposition and there is no doubt, that if and when conditions worsen, farmers will require increased and different types of help," NFF president Fiona Simson said, responding to the new, one-off payments.

Earlier this week, the NFF issued the Government with a formal document .

"We need to have a different approach," Ms Simson said of Australia's approach to drought.

"We cannot find ourselves in the next drought in the same circumstances that we are now, where people have no certainty about the sorts of policies that governments are going to deliver," she said.

There have been four sets of changes to the Farm Household Allowance since August 2018.

Ms McKenzie said more than $350 million had been paid out to farmers under the FHA over the past four years.

An recommended Government separate the FHA from social security.


© ABC 2019

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