The Australian Government has implemented new measures to improve the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) program, making the payment simpler to access and improves the support available to about 620 farmers and their families in the New England currently accessing payments.
Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud and Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, said changes to FHA over the last year bring more certainty to farmers and their partners around the support they can access during difficult circumstances.
“Since the 2018 FHA Review, my department has been implementing the recommendations of a farmer-led panel to modernise and streamline the FHA program,” Minister Littleproud said.
“We’re serious about walking the talk when it comes to backing farmers.
“Providing them with the right support in times of hardship is essential to the continued strength of our agricultural sector.”
Mr Joyce said the changes would be welcomed by hundreds his electorate currently on the payments, particularly for those now affected by the difficult conditions of 2020.
“Our region is one of the worst affected by drought, so it is encouraging to the farmers in New England that the Government listened to local and regional concerns at public forums like what we had at Tamworth, to improve the FHA,” Mr Joyce said.
“For example, the assets test has been simplified to a single threshold of $5.5 million and there won’t be any differentiation between farm and non-farm assets.
“Instead of fluctuating payments, people whose income is under the limit will now have the certainty of being paid at the full rate automatically.
“Farmers and their partners will now have access to a $10,000 Activity Supplement to get independent expert advice, undertake training, or gain new skills and qualifications—and funds aren’t limited to farming. Any activity that can boost income will be considered.
“In the New England, more than 1,143 FHA applications have been processed to June 5. That means 1,143 local households and farming businesses have had the money to pay bills and keep food on the table until conditions improve.”
These reforms were in addition to previous changes, including changing the time limit for the FHA to four in every 10 years; redesigning the application process, including allowing farming couples to share their information via the online application form; and changing the off-farm income offset and treating income from agistment as primary production income.
The final tranche of legislative reforms – removing the requirement for a Business Income Reconciliation process – will come into effect on 1 July 2020.