FEDERAL Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce said 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 NSW.
Mr 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.
He said he was pleased that RFCS providers in the NSW Northern region would receive in total, a further $160,000 as part of this additional support. This included $80,000 in the period between July and December 2015, $40,000 in the period between January and March, 2016 and $40,000 in the period between April and June 2016. On top of the $160,000 for NSW Northern region, there will be extra funding to a total of $180,000 for NSW Central region and $60,000 for the Bourke Region until June 2016.
Mr Joyce said this latest funding boost for the RFCS has been allocated by taking into consideration evolving drought conditions to ensure service providers will have skilled staff available to help farmers when they need it.
“There are a number of areas across the NSW Northern region experiencing prolonged drought and it is vital that we provide the funding necessary to meet increased demand for RFCS services that might not be met within existing resources.
“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,” he said.
Mr Joyce said these funds are in addition to the $14.3 million Commonwealth funding already allocated to the RFCS programme in 2015-16 and complements the considerable assistance the Coalition Government has delivered to farmers and communities impacted by drought.
“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 more than $400 million approved in concessional loans to around 750 farm businesses and more than 5,600 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,” Mr Joyce said.
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/ag-farm-food/drought/assistance/assistancerural-financial-counselling-service
* New RFCS regions will apply in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria from 1 April 2016. Existing NSW Bourke and Victoria North Central RFCS regions will be absorbed within new regions from 1 April 2016.