Why farmers are losing drought support

 

HUNDREDS of Queensland farmers battling the ongoing drought have been kicked off government assistance as the big dry drags on.

There are more than 1300 Queenslanders on the farm household allowance, a $489 a fortnight payment to help those struggling to make ends meet during the drought.

But it is capped at an arbitrary maximum of four years for participants.

About 200 Queensland farmers have had their Farm Household Allowance cut off as the drought continues. Picture: David Gray/Getty Images
About 200 Queensland farmers have had their Farm Household Allowance cut off as the drought continues. Picture: David Gray/Getty Images

New data obtained by The Courier-Mail reveals that as the drought has stretched on, about 200 Queenslanders have been kicked off the payment in the past two years after reaching the four-year limit.

Farming groups have called for the cap to be lifted "with urgency", while there have been accusations taking farmers off the payments in the middle of a drought was "cruel" and "an act of bastardry".

Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie defended the four-year limit, saying it had already been extended and the rules relaxed.

There average time a Queensland farmer has been on the payment has stretched out to 614 days.

Two-thirds of the state is drought declared and some parts of the state's southwest have been so since 2013.

AgForce CEO Mike Guerin said the length of the drought was unprecedented and that it was time for FHA to be reviewed and the limit lifted.

"There is a growing urgency around," he said.

"The cap should be taken off it to recognise that if communities don't stay together you won't rebuild them."

Labor's agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the cap should be removed while the drought continued and that Labor would be willing to work with the government to do so.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon says the Farm Household Allowance should have the four-year limit lifted. Picture: Renee Nowytarger/The Australian
Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon says the Farm Household Allowance should have the four-year limit lifted. Picture: Renee Nowytarger/The Australian

"I've been urging the government for months to not talk farming families off the payment in the middle of what is the worst drought in our history," he said.

"We know more and more people in Queensland will continue to denied the payment over the coming months. It is most unfortunate, it is wrong and the government should put a stop to it.

"It's one of the greatest acts of bastardry by government."

Senator McKenzie said the Coalition Government had already increased the limit from three years to four years and more recently relaxed the rules to ensure it was four years out of every 10.

"Ensuring FHA would be available to farmers in four years out of every 10 was one of the actions identified by the farmer-led review of the program. We've listened to that advice and acted," she said.

Mr Guerin said farmers who came off the FHA or who were struggling should contact the Federally-funded Rural Financial Counsellor who can put them in touch with other services.



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