Updated Tuesday 11.30AM: The Federal Government is extending the Farm Household Allowance program from three years to four.
A Bill has been introduced to parliament to effect the change, which is expected to cost about $30 million.
FHAs were established as a three year welfare payment for farmers struggling under the financial burden of extended dry periods, subject to an income and assets test, providing a single rate of $529 a fortnight and $477 a person for couples.
As of May, there were around 2,300 people who had exhausted their three years on FHA. The extension would provide an extra year of support.
There are about 2000 people currently receiving an FHA and about 8000 who have used the program overall.
FHA’s are part of a policy push towards assistance for drought preparedness, and away from the old Exceptional Circumstances program.
The extension follows the Prime Minister’s recent drought tour in NSW and Queensland, where he was joined by Deputy PM Michael McCormack, Deputy Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
“Farmers said extending FHA was a sensible measure which would help them, and we listened,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The drought has been going on for seven years in parts of Queensland. While FHA is essentially an adjustment payment which comes with free financial counselling to help farmers restructure, four years is a more appropriate timeframe to do this.
“This extra time will give them more breathing space to implement plans to become financially self-sufficient so they are better placed to sustain their farming businesses.”
A policy roundtable is also expected to formed with state farming organisations and the National Farmers Federation to develop future drought policy.
Resilience to a changing climate was a feature of the politicians’ talk during the tour, which continued a growing theme for the Coalition government.
In March, Assistant Agriculture and Water Minister Anne Ruston said agricultural industries should drive their own response to adapt to the impacts of global warming.
In May Agriculture Minister Mr Littleproud announced the interstate Agricultural Ministerial Council would develop a national plan to tackle climate change.
The FHA extension is expected to be confirmed later this week.
Labor agricultural spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said an FHA extension did not go far enough as a policy response to drought.
He has criticised the Coalition for scrapping the former government’s Primary Industries Standing Committee and Standing Council on Primary Industries.
“The extension of FHA and the proposed associated round table process is clearly a plan to kick the drought issue beyond the next federal election,” Mr Fitzgibbon
“(The Council of Australian Governments) CoAG agreed the FHA should not be a permanent payment to farmers. Rather, it should be an interim measure to help farmers make a transition to a more resilient business model.
“The foundation of a new Intergovernmental Agreement must be based on that fact and have a focus of mitigation, adaptation and the building of resilience through market-based policies and best-practice land use methods.”
The story Drought funds flow to $30m for Farm Household Allowance first appeared on Farm Online.