Funding extended for rural business support service

The Federal Government has committed $20 million in additional funding to extend access to the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) until June 2020 for farmers suffering financial hardship.

The Federal Government has committed $20m to extend access to the Rural Financial Counselling Service until June 2020.  Image: iStock/3D-generator

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud announced the funding this week.

“The Coalition Government has delivered $17 million to extend RFCS provider contracts to 30 June 2020 and a further $3.4 million to meet continued demand, bringing the total to more than $70 million over four years to the RFCS.”

The RFSC provides access to free and confidential advice to farmers suffering financial hardship whether it be due to low commodity prices, natural disasters, drought / water issues,  industry downturns, difficulties with lenders or access to finance, changes in personal circumstances, farm accidents or illnesses.

While the funding was announced during a tour of drought-affected areas, the services is available for rural businesses experiencing hardship due to a wide range of impacts, of which drought is only one.

Minister Littleproud said the RFCS extension would be welcomed by communities across the country, with around two-thirds of clients stating the service had helped build resilience in their businesses.

“The feedback speaks for itself: the program is working and as dry conditions continue the service must too,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Each year around 4,500 clients seek help from the RFCS. Counsellors sit down with clients at the kitchen table to talk it out, make a plan for the future and prepare for meetings with lenders, debt mediators and accountants.

“The counsellors also provide vital information about other assistance such as the government’s Farm Household Allowance and support to reach their goals while on payment.

“The FHA has helped over 7,900 recipients so far. Around 85 per cent of people coming off farm support said they are satisfied with the path ahead, which would indicate the program is working well.

“Farmers are some of Australia’s hardest working, resourceful and resilient people, who keep plugging away no matter what Mother-Nature throws at them, but sometimes you just need a bit extra support.”

For more information on the RFCS visit agriculture.gov.au/rfcs or call 1800 686 175.

Fast facts

  • The RFCS assists around 4,500 clients each year nationally, with around 3,000 clients receiving assistance at any point in time.
  • The Coalition Government has delivered $17 million to extend RFCS provider contracts to 30 June 2020 and a further $3.4 million immediate boost, over two years to meet additional demand and better target communications.
  • The Coalition Government has boosted its funding commitment to the RFCS program to more than $70 million from 1 April 2016 to 30 June 2020.
  • Through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, the Coalition Government has made available a range of social and business support measures including
    • the Farm Business Concessional Loans Scheme,
    • Farm Household Allowance,
    • the Rural Financial Counselling Service, and
    • support to manage the effects of pest animals and weeds in drought-affected areas.
  • Since Farm Household Allowance was launched on 1 July 2014, it has helped around 7,900 recipients. It is important farmers do not self-assess, but instead seek advice from the Department of Human Services Farmer Assistance Hotline on 13 23 16.
  • Through the Coalition’s concessional loan programs, more than $834 million in loans has been approved to 1,527 farm businesses (as at 30 April 2018).
  • The government will continue to support Australian farmers through the establishment of the Regional Investment Corporation, which will deliver a nationally-consistent loans program.

More information

By |June 12th, 2018|Future Business, News|

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APAL is an industry representative body and non-profit membership organisation that supports Australia’s commercial apple and pear growers.