STILL WAITING: Hundreds of Southern Downs farmers could be getting help from the government, but only 30 are actually receiving support.
STILL WAITING: Hundreds of Southern Downs farmers could be getting help from the government, but only 30 are actually receiving support. Ali Kuchel

Hundreds of Southern Downs farmers missing out, figures show

A "CONCERNING" number of Southern Downs farmers are not taking up help from the government, with some saying the system is "snowed under" with increasing demand.

Figures obtained from the Department of Agriculture reveal less than 10percent of eligible farmers in the Southern Downs are receiving the Federal Government's drought-assistance package.

While more than 300 farmers in the region are eligible for the Farm Household Allowance, a mere 30 were on the payment at September 14.

Member for Maranoa David Littleproud said the statistics were a worry.

"I am concerned that farmers might be self-assessing and that is something they should not be doing," Mr Littleproud said.

But others said the system was "snowed under" with rising demand.

A Warwick dairy farmer, who did not want to be identified, applied for the FHA in early August but said he was still waiting for a response.

"I don't blame them if they are trying to do a good thing but we still haven't seen a cent," the farmer said.

 

DRY UP: Drought conditions affect the region as this empty dam near the Bucca Road turn-off attests.
Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail
DRY UP: Drought conditions affect the region as this empty dam near the Bucca Road turn-off attests. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail Max Fleet BUN030913DRY1

On-farm costs skyrocket

Paying triple the amount for hay than this time last year and an extra $3000 each month for grain, the farmer said he had not turned a profit on his farm since the beginning of the year.

"Power and rates and feed, everything is just hammering us. We can't even afford wages, right now," he said.

"We just have to sit tight and wait. The system is snowed under at the moment I think."

Less than half way through the current financial year, the number of FHA applications is up 133 per cent on the previous 12 months according to Department of Agriculture statics.

Warwick-based rural financial counsellor Micheal Fagg said the service assisted more than 150 people in the Southern Downs in the months since the government relaxed the asset test for the FHA in June this year.

"There would be an awful lot of people we have assisted that would still be in the assessment stage," he said.

Mr Littleproud said the normal application processing time for the FHA was 18 days, depending on the complexity of cases, and the department of human services employed staff as needed.

 

HEADING WEST: The new Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison visited Quilpie in his first official week in the job. He is pictured with Agriculture and Water Resources Minister and Maranoa MP David Littleproud, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Deputy Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie and grazier Stephen Tully
New Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison visited regional Queensland in his first official week in the job with Maranoa MP David Littleproud. Contributed

Test your eligibility

FARMERS who think they won't make the cut for government assistance are being urged not to self-assess, with hardship provision in place for those who don't meet the standard criteria.

Mr Littleproud said the government had increased the number of rural financial counsellors by 36.

"Your property doesn't have to be in drought to get the payment, but the drought has been a major cause," he said.

A department spokesman said the farm assets test threshold was recently raised from $2.6million to $5million.

"To qualify for FHA, people must be a farmer or the partner of a farmer, be a permanent Australian resident, agree to undertake activities to improve their financial position and meet an income and assets test."

Contact Rural Financial Counsellor Micheal Fagg on 0419 732 591 or by email: micheal.fagg@rfcssq.org.au

 

Michael Fagg works at the Warwick branch of the Rural Financial Counselling Service. He helps farmer manage their debt.
Micheal Fagg works at the Warwick branch of the Rural Financial Counselling Service. Michael Nolan