FARMERS battling drought will continue to be supported by free financial counselling with an extra $920,000 in funding for Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) providers in regional areas in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said a total of $1.8 million has been delivered to extend financial counselling assistance for up to 500 additional drought affected farmers in 2015–16.
“This latest funding boost for the RFCS has been allocated taking into consideration evolving drought conditions to ensure service providers will have skilled staff available to help farmers when they need it,” Minister Joyce said.
“There are a number of areas across Australia experiencing prolonged drought that have been funded to meet increased demand for RFCS services that can’t be met with existing resources.
“Victoria and South Australia’s RFCS providers will receive a boost following from the unseasonably dry spring impacting on major grain production areas and the high temporary water market prices facing irrigators.
“Times of drought can put severe pressure on both farm and household budgets and the RFCS has been providing valuable free financial counselling services to rural communities since 1986.
“The RFCS can support farmers with business planning, farm debt mediation and helping them access sources of professional, industry and government assistance.”
Of the $1.8 million:
- $730,000 has been allocated to providers in Queensland, to support farmers in all parts of the state as the drought is so widespread
- $400,000 has been allocated to providers in New South Wales and has already supported extra staff in Walgett and Coonabarabran, as well as enabling staff in other northern locations to maintain or increase their hours to meet demand
- $420,000 has been allocated to providers in Victoria for additional resources in the northern Wimmera and in the Mallee and across the northern irrigation areas of the state more generally
- $160,000 has been allocated to South Australia, especially to support growers in the south east
- $90,000 has been allocated to Western Australia.
“These funds are in addition to the $14.3 million Commonwealth funding already allocated to the RFCS programme in 2015–16,” Minister Joyce said.
“Since coming to government we have invested more than $590 million in assistance and support for Australian farmers and rural communities experiencing drought and other hardship—with over $400 million approved in concessional loans to around 750 farm businesses and over 5600 claims for Farm Household Allowance (FHA) granted.
“In addition, the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper makes available nearly $3 billion over the next 10 years providing farming families, farm businesses and rural communities with greater certainty about how and when the government will help them to prepare for, manage through, and recover from drought.”
Source: Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. For more information on the range of assistance available to farmers, visit agriculture.gov.au/assistance. To get in touch with the RFCS visit: agriculture.gov.au/rfcs.