​Media Release

Improving access to Farm Household Allowance

9 February 2017

  • The Coalition Government has listened to the concerns of farmers and is legislating to make it easier for farmers in hardship to access the payment
  • Changes will be made to clarify the treatment of assets used to run a farm business
  • Two mandatory waiting periods for FHA will be removed to speed up payment to farmers in need

The Coalition Government has listened to the concerns of farmers and will make improvements to the delivery of the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) payment, to make it easier for those who are experiencing hardship.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the Coalition Government wanted to ensure the FHA continued to meet its intent, supporting farmers in hardship to get back on their feet.

"The Coalition Government is listening and we have moved to help speed up the payment of FHA and more accurately treat farm assets for eligibility," Minister Joyce said.

"We have introduced amendments to the Farm Household Support Act 2014 to more precisely define the farm assets used in the running of their business, such as water assets and shares in a farming cooperatives, when assessing eligibility.

"The amendments address the issue of such assets, necessary for the operation of the farm enterprise, falling within the definition of non-farm asset, which has stricter assets limits and can prevent some rightfully eligible farm businesses from receiving payment.

"I acted in December with an immediate solution, bringing in a Minister's Rule which enabled up to $1.1 million in net water assets to be exempted from the FHA assets test.

"As farm assets under the legislation, they will be properly treated in the same light as land, equipment and machinery that are needed to run a farm business when determining eligibility.

"The legislation also removes the requirement to serve an Ordinary Waiting Period or Liquid Assets Waiting Period before people can receive payment. This will mean farmers in need can receive payments at the earliest possible opportunity.

"The government has listened to the concerns of farmers through the Dairy Roundtable process, who had to wait too long to receive payment.

"We have acted where we could in the legislation, and work is continuing to improve the efficiency of FHA application process by the Department of Human Services."

 The FHA is designed to help recipients meet basic household needs and provides the opportunity to take steps to improve their financial circumstances.

"Before the Coalition introduced the FHA in 2014, there was no support payment generally available to farmers in hardship outside of the exceptional circumstances," Minister Joyce said.

"Exceptional circumstances was abolished by the former Labor Government which let farmers starve if their businesses were in temporary hardship."

More than 7000 claims have been granted since the FHA was introduced, giving farmers access to one‑on‑one case support, activity supplements and income support.

For more information on the FHA visit http://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/assistance/farm-household-allowance.

​FAST FACTS

  • FHA provides up to three years of income support, which is designed to help recipients meet basic household needs and offers the opportunity for them to take steps to improve their circumstances. 
  • As at 3 February 2017, over 7000 claims for Farm Household Allowance had been granted.
  • On average, the government is paying out $1.16 million per week to farm families in FHA.
  • Like other social security payments, there are waiting periods until people can access FHA, unless they are granted an exemption.
  • A person's ordinary waiting period is seven days from either the start date (being granted payment) or end date of any liquid assets waiting period.
  • A person must serve a liquid assets waiting period, where the value of their liquid assets exceeds the relevant threshold of $5,500 if the applicant is single and $11,000 if the person is partnered or single with a dependent child. A person's liquid assets waiting period is a maximum of 13 weeks from the day the applicant applied for FHA. ​