Farmers offered drought-relief cash payments

Wollondilly farmers have welcomed the federal government’s decision to offer drought-relief cash payments but want the application process simplified.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the federal government's latest $190 million relief package on Sunday. 

Eligible farming families will receive an additional $12,000 under the Farm Household Allowance, with the first $6,000 payment on September 1 and another round of funding to follow on March 1 next year.

Werombi dairy farmer Melinda Hayter said she and her husband Brett had tried to apply for the allowance scheme in the past but found they were not eligible.

She said she would re-investigate their eligibility.

“I welcome the funding but I don’t know why the government is giving part of the funding in September and the second half in March,” Mrs Hayter said. “The money is needed now.

“I took half a day off work when I tried to apply in the past only to find out I didn’t fall into the criteria.

“The application is too in-depth and too hard. 

“I would like to see the application process made easier.”

Farmers have been urged to take advantage of additional rural counsellors who can help explain the complex process of applying for the allowance scheme.

Lions Club of Tahmoor member Sharon Bishop, Tony and Todd Biffin and Sharon Robertson at a Dilly Drought Drive delivery of hay.

Lions Club of Tahmoor member Sharon Bishop, Tony and Todd Biffin and Sharon Robertson at a Dilly Drought Drive delivery of hay.

Cawdor dairy farmer Tony Biffin said he knew first hand that applying for the allowance scheme made farmers feel like they were “waste deep” in paperwork so he was pleased there were financial experts who could provide advice.

Mr Biffin has welcomed the funding and is particularly pleased the government has increased the net asset threshold cap from $2.6 million to $5 million.

“Most large-scale farmers in Wollondilly would have exceeded the $2.6 million asset cap because the value of our land is so high,” he said.

“I have worked with our local member Angus Taylor and explained to him that our land is a liability rather than an asset in times of drought.

“I am overjoyed they have lifted the cap and will provide cash to farmers.

“The money will help pay for the basic needs of families and will put the bread and butter on the table.”

Hume MP Angus Taylor

Hume MP Angus Taylor

Hume MP Angus Taylor urged farmers to apply for the scheme.

“I have talked to many farmers across the electorate in the last couple of weeks and months,” he said.

“I spoke with the Prime Minister about the drought and the federal government’s assistance last week.

“If farmers are in need of money then they need to look at this option. The eligibility criteria has changed.

“We’re in this for the long haul and the government will stand with our farmers every step of the way.

“I want to make sure farming families and communities get all the support they need to get through the drought, recover and get back on their feet.”

About 8000 farmers are expected to be eligible under the revised scheme on top of 19,000 farmers who had not taken up the scheme previously.

Glenmore dairy farmer Gavin Moore was not impressed by Sunday’s announcement and described it as a “token gesture made by an out-of-touch government”.

He said lifting the asset cap to $5 million would “do nothing” to help most dairy farmers because they owned more than $5 million in dairy plants, machinery and cows.

“None of those assets can be sold because they are part of our livelihoods,” he said.

Picton farmer John Fairley said he welcomed the drought assistance even though he was not eligible under the revised scheme.

“I won’t be applying but I’m glad the government is helping all sorts of farmers,” he said.

“The government needs to think about how to support farmers long term but I am pleased they are at least trying to help us get through in the short term.”

Mr Taylor, who runs a sheep and cattle grazing property near Goulburn and jointly owns farming operations across south eastern NSW, said he would be happy to talk to any Wollondilly or Camden farmer about how he could provide more assistance.

“There is a fear among the public and farmers that no matter what the government does that it will never be enough because what we need most is rain,” he said. 

“I live on a farm and I am dealing with the drought myself. I fully understand how tough it is for farmers.

“I’d be delighted to come say hello to farmers.

“I will keep pushing the government and other to help farmers in need.”

We want to hear what you think. Submit a letter to the editor or write to rdickins@fairfaxmedia.com.au. 

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