Dairy support changes
The Federal Government is making changes to the Farm Household Allowance, following a series of meetings in which farmers complained about its delivery.
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the scheme would be altered to remove some assets that were required for farm operation but were classified as non-farm assets.
The Act will also be amended to remove the requirement for a waiting period before farmers can receive a payment.
At the roundtable meeting held at Congupna last year and chaired by Senator Bridget McKenzie, farmers complained of delays in getting their applications dealt with, while others complained documents had been lost or scanned incorrectly.
Some of the dairy support packages offered by the Commonwealth were introduced following the milk price cut by the two major processors, Murray Goulburn and Fonterra, last year.
Mr Joyce said the amendments addressed the issue of assets, necessary for the operation of the farm enterprise, falling within the definition of non-farm asset, which had stricter assets limits and could prevent some rightfully eligible farm businesses from receiving payment.
Senator McKenzie said she heard first-hand from dairy farmers in the Kiewa Valley, Shepparton, Camperdown and Gippsland about the significant problems they encountered in accessing assistance quickly.
‘‘They told me about unsatisfactory service from DHS and Centrelink with staff unable to provide accurate or consistent information about farm household assistance resulting in excessive waiting times for benefits.’’
She said work was continuing to improve the efficiency of the Farm Household Allowance application process by the Department of Human Services.
More than 7000 claims have been granted nationally since the Farm Household Allowance was introduced.
Acting on concerns . . . Senator Bridget McKenzie speaking at the Congupna meeting that heard some of the complaints about the delivery of assistance to dairy farmers following last year’s milk price cuts.