Farm Household Case Officers like Beccie McIntosh are supporting Australian farmers through tough times.
Based in Broken Hill, Beccie is one of our 81 amazing Farm Household Case Officers around Australia who help farmers get back on their feet again when things get tough.
“Farming can be unpredictable. Droughts, bushfires, COVID-19, flooding rains – a single weather event can mean the difference between a good season and a bad season. And the impacts can often be devastating,” Beccie said.
“I support farmers who are on Farm Household Allowance by connecting them to local services and programs to help them seek support, think outside of the box and explore new ideas.
“The role is complex and challenging at times. It ranges from helping farmers to prepare for the future, exploring long-term financially viable farming options, to just being a listening ear at the end of the phone.
“Last year I helped a couple who were under pressure from the bank to reduce their debt levels. They were handfeeding stock and close to running out of water. I referred them to the Rural Financial Counselling Service who helped them with debt mediation.
“After seeking professional advice, they devised a plan for a partial sale of their land, leaving them debt free with a smaller, more manageable parcel of land. They were able to improve their financial position, sink a bore to address their water problems, keep their remaining stock and continue to live the lifestyle they love into retirement.”
Usually Beccie would attend local events to connect with farmers, but during the pandemic she and her fellow Farm Household Case Officers are primarily working with farmers over the phone.
Changes from June this year have made it easier for farmers to access essential advice and support.
If a farmer is eligible for Farm Household Allowance, the Government will pay them at the maximum rate and their payment will no longer reduce if they earn extra income. Farm Household Allowance is paid at the same rate as JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance.
Farm and non-farm assets tests have been combined into a single test with a limit of $5.5 million, so it’s easier to calculate total assets and more farmers will be eligible.
The Activity Supplement now has a lifetime maximum of $10,000 and can be used for travel and accommodation costs as well as different types of training, study and advice. This can help improve the productivity and viability of the farming business as well increase skills and knowledge for opportunities to work outside the farm.
We’ve also relaxed the rules around who can do a Farm Financial Assessment. This is an assessment of the financial position of the farm and it forms part of activities farmers must do while they are getting the allowance.
“Rural Australia is the backbone of our country. It’s so important to support our farmers and the development of an innovative, viable and sustainable agricultural sector to withstand future drought cycles and strengthen farming for generations to come,” Beccie said.