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$12,000 lump-sum payments for farming families

Ash Whitney from Goohli is one of many NSW farmers struggling through record drought conditions. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Ash Whitney from Goohli is one of many NSW farmers struggling through record drought conditions. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

FARMERS will get $12,000 in cash payments to put food on their tables

Drought-stricken farmers will get two lump-sum ­payments of up to $6000 in September and March, with highest payments going to families with children.

Instead of low-interest loans and cashback subsidies, the federal government is, for the first time, giving out lump-sum cash payments.

Venti_WHAT-WE-WANT.jpg
Venti_WHAT-WE-WANT.jpg

Today's $190 million ann­ouncement takes the federal government's drought ­response to $576 million, with hundreds of millions of dollars more to be announced in the next few weeks.

The first families to get the cash will be those already on an existing modest welfare payment worth up to $295 a week called the Farm Household ­Allowance (FHA).

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Single farmers without kids will receive up to $7200 in two lump-sum ­payments of $3600.

The government believes as many as 19,000 farming families are eligible for the FHA but have not applied for it.

Ash Whitney from Goohli is one of many NSW farmers struggling through record drought conditions. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Ash Whitney from Goohli is one of many NSW farmers struggling through record drought conditions. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

To ensure every drought-stricken family gets help, the government will spend $5 million for Rural Financial Counsellors to go through farmers' accounts and help them apply.

The Sunday Telegraph had been calling on the government to relax the asset cut-off for the FHA, as farmers whose land is worth more than $2.6m were disqualified despite their farms being effectively worthless during the driest 16-month stretch on record.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull toured regional NSW and Queensland towns to visit communities struggling with drought in June.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull toured regional NSW and Queensland towns to visit communities struggling with drought in June.

In response, the federal government has relaxed the asset cap from $2.6m to $5m, which will mean an estimated 8000 more farming households will become eligible.

Mr Turnbull described his own Upper Hunter farm near Scone as "desperately dry" but said "other areas are even ­harder hit".

"Our farmers put the food on our table and the fibre on our back. We admire their courage and we stand with them. We have their back," Mr Turnbull said.

"I keenly understand the challenges drought is presenting our farmers. It is a shocking drought."

In response to criticism the 106-question FHA application form was too onerous, the government has replaced the form with a statutory declaration for existing recipients who wish to keep receiving it.

Handfed stock are too weak to leave their food stack as the drought bites hard in north-west NSW. Picture by Peter Lorimer
Handfed stock are too weak to leave their food stack as the drought bites hard in north-west NSW. Picture by Peter Lorimer

 

The government will also tip $11.4m into mental health so farmers can access all 10 counselling sessions covered by Medicare over Skype, scrapping a rule the first appointment must be in person.

"This recognises the long distances and the cost of travel in money and time for rural people," Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said.

As drought hits hard in north-western NSW, kangaroos are swamping the township of Gunnedah in search of grass on front lawns and water from sprinklers. Picture: Peter Lorimer
As drought hits hard in north-western NSW, kangaroos are swamping the township of Gunnedah in search of grass on front lawns and water from sprinklers. Picture: Peter Lorimer
There has been a dramatic increase in fox sightings as they go on the hunt for food and water in the drought. Picture by Peter Lorimer
There has been a dramatic increase in fox sightings as they go on the hunt for food and water in the drought. Picture by Peter Lorimer
Sunday Telegraph front page, July 22, 2018.
Sunday Telegraph front page, July 22, 2018.
Sunday Telegraph front page, July 29, 2018.
Sunday Telegraph front page, July 29, 2018.

Topics:  draught editors picks farming payments welfare