​Media Release

Assistance available for South Australian farmers in drought

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce​​
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources,​ Senator Anne Ruston

​22 October 2015

With seasonal conditions worsening in parts of South Australia, Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, highlighted the assistance measures that were available to help farmers in need.

Minister Joyce said that livestock, dairy, wine and horticulture producing regions across South Australia, and in the South-East in particular, have experienced very challenging conditions for some time now, while ABARES has also forecast an almost 10 per cent drop in winter crop production.

“A number of districts around the state including in the Eyre Peninsula, the Yorke Pensinsula, along the Limestone Coast, parts of the Murraylands and North West Pastoral region and other areas are experiencing ongoing dry conditions and the Australian Government would like to reassure people that there are support measures being rolled out to help farmers in need,” Minister Joyce said.

“I encourage farmers to consider the assistance programmes that are available and to seriously think about which of them could help their family or business better manage drought conditions.

“I was pleased to recently announce $10 million for concessional loans for drought-affected farm businesses in SA in 2015–16 is now available—I encourage those interested to contact Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) to find out more. 

“These loans, currently with a concessional interest rate of 3.05 per cent, help farm businesses experiencing drought to restructure existing debt, or to fund operating expenses or drought preparedness and recovery activities.”

Minister Ruston said a variety of other support was also in place to assist.

“The Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) continues to provide free financial counselling to farmers, fishers and small rural businesses who are suffering financial hardship and who have no alternative sources of impartial advice,” Minister Ruston said.

“In 2015-16, $1.76 million has been allocated to Rural Financial Counselling Service SA and has been put to good use with 262 clients in South Australia and the Northern Territory receiving help from this service in the first quarter of this financial year.

“The RFCS can help farming families determine what assistance measures best meet their needs. Some may be eligible for income support through the Farm Household Allowance (FHA)—445 South Australians have already been granted the FHA. This is a demand driven programme to assist farmers and their families who are experiencing financial hardship—if you’re eligible you will receive it.

“The Department of Human Services delivers the Farm Household Allowance; more information about this assistance is available by calling the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316.

“The Australian Taxation Office has a dedicated hotline to provide advice to drought-affected taxpayers (13 11 42, select option 3). Nationally they’ve received about 6,500 calls already.

Through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper we have also committed to keep delivering low interest loans products for at least another 10 years so farmers can have some certainty about the support available to them in future years,” Minister Ruston said today.

Ministers Joyce and Ruston highlighted other measures, including several under the Ag White Paper, currently available or being developed to assist farmers:

  • simplified accelerated depreciation arrangements for fencing—farmers are now able to immediately tax deduct the cost of new fencing in the first year of purchase
  • immediate tax deduction of the cost of new water infrastructure, and accelerated three-year depreciation of capital expenditure on fodder storage assets—worth an estimated $86 million
  • rolling out $20 million in additional funding for 2015-16 to expand access to community mental health and family support in drought-affected areas across Australia, with additional drought coordinators already at work
  • investing $25.8 million nationally to manage pests animals and weeds in drought-affected areas.

The ministers urged farmers facing worsening conditions to speak to someone either at the Department of Human Services or the Rural Financial Counselling Service SA about some of the Australian Government programmes on offer.

“It makes good sense to see what assistance your business can access—so we encourage farmers not to self-assess their eligibility and to talk through options with an expert,” both ministers said today.

To apply for drought concessional loans, please visit pir.sa.gov.au/primary_industry/business_development/drought_concessional_loan/_recache

For more information on the range of Australian Government assistance for farmers, farm businesses and rural communities, visit agriculture.gov.au/assistance.