Head to the bush and spend up for drought relief

Head to the bush and spend up for drought relief


Farm Online News
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Opinion: Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says there are many ways the public can assist communities impacted by drought.

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Opinion 

It's been heartwarming seeing everyone come together to do their bit for communities in drought recently.

Whether it's city people sending money to farm families, charities pitching in or the person on the street asking their mate if they're ok, you can't help but smile at the Aussie spirit.

We country people are a proud bunch. We don't like taking a handout and we don't like asking for help much either.

There's probably a few reasons lots of farmers have chosen not to apply for the Farm Household Allowance despite the fact they're eligible.

Part of it might be the application process - I'll get to that in a minute - and part might be they reckon they're probably not eligible.

Part of it might also be farmers don't like taking a handout.

This week, we've announced a boost to the FHA. Couples who were already getting $25,000 a year will get a $12,000 boost for a total of $37,000. In drought, the Feds look after people and the states look after animals - the freight and fodder. So we're doing our bit. We've also relaxed the net asset threshold to $5 million, so thousands more farmers become eligible. 

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud

I also announced an extra $5 million for Rural Financial Counsellors to help farmers fill out the FHA form, to make it easier on farmers. And even if you think you're over the net asset test threshold or the income threshold, please, go and see your RFC. They're the specialists here and we supply them for free. Don't just ask your accountant, or your neighbour over the back fence.

I've been giving the banks a bit of a belting over the past couple of months, and the big rural lenders have finally started to offer farmers the chance to use their Farm Management Deposits as an offset against their loans. This potentially could save farmers up to $24,000 a year. There's $6.6 billion in FMDs around Australia at the moment. The Rural Bank was already offering an FMD offset, and now NAB, CBA and Rabobank have all gotten on board.

I think we need to spread the word about what the average city person can do.

There's two things. 

One; they could send money. We need to tell them not to send food or hampers because that just takes business from the grocer in town who's already doing it tough.

Two; they could come and see our country.

So many city families are removed from farming and rural life now. Lots of kids think milk and steak come from a packet in the supermarket, not from a farmer.

As so much of Australia loses touch with rural life, we lose part of our heritage.

We need those families to reconnect, and they can start by visiting our great country communities. They can show their kids a bit of Australia. They can stay in our hotels and our farm stay accommodation, eat at our pubs and see our attractions.

Who knows, some might even decide to make the move away from the traffic jams and the rat race for a better life in the country.

In my electorate of Maranoa, we've got dinosaur prints and fossils, the Waltzing Matilda Centre, the Stockman's Hall of Fame and the Qantas Founders Museum, just to name a few.

Every region of Australia has hidden gems; great scenery and culture, heritage, food and wine.

We need to tell our mates in the city: If you want to help our rural towns, get off your arse and get out here!

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