​Media Release

Assistance is available for Victorian farmers in drought

21 October 2015

With seasonal conditions worsening in parts of Victoria, Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, today highlighted the assistance measures that were available to help farmers in need.

“I’ve been hearing that things are getting tougher in the southern Mallee and Wimmera for some time and now ABARES has revised down its winter crop production forecast by 10 per cent for Victoria,” Minister Joyce said.

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

“There’s the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) that provides free financial counselling to farmers, fishers and small rural businesses who are suffering financial hardship and who have no alternative sources of impartial advice. 

“In 2015-16, $3.7 million has been allocated to RFCS providers in Victoria so far and has been put to good use with 830 clients receiving help from this service in the first quarter of this financial year.”

Mr Joyce said the RFCS is able to help farming families determine what assistance measures best meet their needs.

“Some may be eligible for income support—1058 Victorians have already been granted the Farm Household Allowance. This is a demand driven programme—if you’re eligible you will receive it,” he said.

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 more than 6000 calls already,” Mr Joyce said.

“And we’re working hard, together with the Victorian Government, to make an additional $30 million worth of concessional loans available this financial year.

“We are close to opening the Drought Concessional Loans Scheme for applications in 2015-16, announced through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. Thirty million dollars will be available through these loans, currently with a concessional interest rate of 3.05 per cent, to help farm businesses experiencing drought to restructure existing debt, or to fund operating expenses or drought preparedness and recovery activities.

“And there is a commitment to keep a low interest loans product available for at least another 10 years so farmers can have some certainty about the support available to them in future years.”

Minister Joyce also highlighted other measures currently available or being developed that can 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.

Minister Joyce urged farmers facing worsening conditions to investigate if any of the Australian Government programmes on offer could help them.

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

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