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Riverland growers to benefit from increased Rural Financial Counselling Service funding

22 March 2024

Hundreds of Riverland growers and producers will have access to an increased Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) funding pool, with the Federal Government committing an additional $1.7 million to the fund nationally.

Riverland Wine CEO Lyndall Rowe said close to 500 growers would be eligible for the Farm Household Allowance component of the RFCS funding.

The Farm Household Allowance is a payment which is being offered by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to support farming businesses in times when incomes decrease, with the application processed and administrated by Services Australia (Centrelink) via myGov.

For a grower to qualify, net assets must be below $5.5 million (including farm and non-farming assets). Off-farm income does not preclude growers or farmers from the payment, with growers being advised to seek support in understanding your details.

Farmers are eligible to receive a payment of up to $693.90 per fortnight per person for four years within a 10-year period, with the current 10-year period ending on 30 June, 2024. Any farmer or grower who has already used their four years’ worth of payments can re-apply from 1 July, 2024.

Ms Rowe said access to the Farm Household Allowance would allow growers to feel more secure as they consider their future options.

“For some people this ensure they can put food on the table, pay their bills and receive support as they consider their future and as we work towards a positive solution,” Ms Rowe said.

“Over the past 12 months there has been a doubling in demand for RFCS support, and this is desperately needed. The service has been working with 100 wine grape clients and is available to any business that needs support to navigate their difficult situation.

“We have been calling for immediate support including additional funding, and the Riverland Wine Industry Blueprint Implementation Plan calls for additional counselling, We’re pleased to see the increase in funding and we appreciate being heard during this challenging time for industry.”

Riverland Wine will be communicating with growers and encouraging people to apply for grants and for counselling support over the coming weeks.

Grower Amanda Dimas, who organised a petition signed by more than 900 people, has been calling for additional support. She will also be promoting access to the RFCS grants.

“I encourage any farmer, that is currently struggling to see our Rural Financial Councillors in Berri, they are able to help with the application process, making it simple, and having someone that knows how to get through the paperwork is very helpful,” Ms Dimas said.

“I can’t stress this enough, if we are not making use of the current government allocation, and showing them we are in financial difficulties, they do not know and (there’s a risk) no other supports will be given.”

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt said the extra funding would help producers and small-related businesses who are at risk of or experiencing financial hardship to access independent financial counselling.

“The Rural Financial Counselling Service provides access to qualified professionals, and tailored support unique to each primary producer’s situation, at no cost to the person,” Minister Watt said.

“This is practical, hands-on support for members of the ag industry to help them plot a way forward for their business. The program helps build resilience into farm businesses so they can better manage potential future challenges. I encourage all primary producers to access the RFCS before reaching crisis point.”

The funding targets farmers, fishers, foresters, and small agricultural businesses in South Australia, the Northern Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria who have taken a financial hit due to the impact of severe weather events including fires and flooding, and commodity downturns, such as the impact on the red wine grape industry in the Riverland.

For more information about the RFCS, click here.

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