Victorian farmers battling drought will continue to be supported by free financial counselling with an extra $420,000 for Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) providers across the state, Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie said.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, today announced $1.8 million to extend financial counselling assistance for up to 500 additional drought affected farmers in 2015-16.
It includes $40,000 for the Victorian Goulburn Murray Hume RFCS region (to be renamed North East); $220,000 for the Murray Mallee (North West); $40,000 for North Central (to be absorbed into the North East and North West); and $120,000 for the Wimmera South West (Western). The new RFCS regions take effect from 1 April 2016.
“This latest funding boost takes into consideration evolving drought conditions, ensuring RFCS service providers have the skilled staff and resources available to help farmers when they need it,” Senator McKenzie said.
“There are a number of areas across Victoria experiencing prolonged drought and it is vital we provide the funding necessary to meet increased demand for RFCS services that might not be met within existing resources.
“As we know, times of drought can put severe pressure on farm and household budgets and the RFCS has been providing valuable free financial counselling services to rural communities since 1986. It includes business planning, farm debt mediation and helping them access sources of professional, industry and government assistance.”
Minister Joyce said these funds are in addition to the $14.3 million Commonwealth funding already allocated to the RFCS program in 2015-16 and complements the considerable assistance the Liberal-Nationals government has delivered to farmers and communities impacted by drought.
“Since coming to government we have invested more than $590 million in assistance and support for Australian farmers and rural communities experiencing drought and other hardship—with over $400 million approved in concessional loans to around 750 farm businesses and over 5,600 claims for Farm Household Allowance (FHA) granted,” he said.
“In addition, the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper makes available nearly $3 billion over the next 10 years providing farming families, farm businesses and rural communities with greater certainty about how and when the government will help them to prepare for, manage through, and recover from drought.”
For more information on the range of assistance available to farmers, visit agriculture.gov.au/assistance. To get in touch with the RFCS visit: agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/assistance/assistancerural-financial-counselling-service