And dairy farmers are the most likely to be receiving the Centrelink support payment, with more than double the applications of any other commodity, The Weekly Times can reveal. Figures obtained from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources show 7910 farmers have received the FHA – a weekly $480 payment for struggling farmers – since it was introduced in 2014.
Victoria makes up 2532 of those, above NSW on 2268, and Queensland – where much of the state has been in drought for six years – on 2138.
Dairy makes up most applications nationwide, with 1928 since August 2015 (the earliest date from which the department could provide an industry breakdown). There were 820 applications from beef farmers and 759 from horticulture producers.
Dairy applications spiked after the 2016 dairy crisis – when Murray Goulburn, Fonterra and National Dairy Products slashed their prices retrospectively – with 1663 applications between May 2016 and January this year, of which 919 were approved.
Victorian dairy farmers make up about 794 of those.
Eligibility for the FHA was relaxed in 2017 following complaints from dairy farmers about the complex paperwork required and strict assets tests.
Wimmera South West Rural Financial Counselling Service executive officer David Stafford said demand was up 15 per cent for this time of year, with many dairy farmers still recovering from the milk price drop two years ago.
“We are busy for a number of reasons, such as people have been impacted by fire,” he said.
“Costs have been put under more pressure with the availability of fodder and the price of hay. Input costs are up and that’s putting budgets under pressure. The dairy industry is tracking OK, but there’s a lot of stress out there.”
Farmers can access FHA for a total of three years. Queensland Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan said he would work to change this cut-off.
“I don’t know any other form of social security … that terminates so abruptly,” he said.
By: NATALIE KOTSIOS and SIMONE SMITH
Source: The Weekly Times