FHA fact sheet

​Publication details

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, April 2017

Farm Household Allowance (FHA) provides eligible farmers and farmers’ partners experiencing financial hardship with income support for up to a cumulative maximum of three years.

FHA is designed to help farmers and farmers’ partners meet basic household needs and provides the opportunity to take steps to improve their circumstances.

Farmers and farmers’ partners on FHA may claim up to $4,000 for activities that help to achieve financial self-reliance by the end of the three years on payment.

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Changes to waiting periods and the asset tests

Recent changes to the Farm Household Allowance programme (FHA) has removed the need for new FHA recipients to serve the Ordinary Waiting Period (OWP) and the Liquid Assets Waiting Period (LAWP). The changes also clarify the definition of farm assets.

Need more information or help?

  • Call the DHS Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316 (8am – 8pm Monday to Friday).
  • DHS processes FHA applications and can help you to assess your situation.
  • Speak with your local Rural Financial Counsellor, financial advisor or accountant.
  • Don’t have a Rural Financial Counsellor? Find one near you at RFCS or call 1800 686 175.
  • See the FHA Guidelines online.

FHA payment

FHA is delivered by the Australian Government Department of Human Services (DHS). Payments are made fortnightly, at a rate that aligns with social security allowances, such as Newstart Allowance (or Youth Allowance for those under 22 years of age).

Farmers and farmers’ partners can also receive a Health Care Card as well as a range of other allowances such as Pharmaceutical Allowance and Rent Assistance.

Recipients will only be paid for a negotiated period of up to six weeks, if they leave Australia temporarily.

Eligibility basics

  • Be a farmer or partner of a farmer
  • Be aged 16 years or over
  • The farmer must have a right or interest in the land used for the purpose of a farm enterprise
  • The farmer must use the land wholly or mainly for the purpose of the farm enterprise
  • The must have a farm enterprise with a ‘significant commercial purpose or character
  • The farmer must contribute significant labour and capital to the farm enterprise-
  • The farm must be located in Australia
  • Meet residence requirements
  • Meet income and assets tests
  • Be willing and agree to comply with mutual obligation requirements
  • Must have received less than three years of Farm Household Allowance

It is recommended that applicants don’t self-assess their eligibility.

Waiting periods

Depending on circumstances, applicants may need to wait for a period of time before getting their first payment.

Recent changes to the FHA has removed the requirement for new FHA recipients to serve an OWP and the LAWP. The Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period remains in effect.

Transition arrangements

If a new claim has been lodged on or after 5 April 2017, applicants will not need to serve the OWP or the LAWP.

If a claim was lodged before 5 April 2017, and a decision has not yet been made on the application, the OWP and the LAWP will not apply to the application. If, however, a decision has already been made concerning the application the OWP and the LAWP may need to be served, depending on personal circumstances.

See description above.

Income tests

Applicants’ income must be below the cut-off point for Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance (whichever applies to the applicants’ specific circumstances).

If applicants earn off-farm income, in some specific circumstances, that income may be deducted when calculating their entitlement under the income test.

A maximum of $80,000 of off-farm income can be offset against interest repayments if, among other things, the farmer’s income or their partner’s income from their farming business for the relevant financial year is less than zero and can be substantiated that the loan contract cannot be renegotiated.

Assets tests

There are two parts to the assets tests.

Part 1 - The non-farm and liquid assets test

The first part assesses the net non-farm and liquid assets the farmer, the farmer’s family and their business own. It has the same thresholds as national social security allowances. Liquid assets include cash in their personal and business bank accounts, term deposits, shares and other financial accounts.

From 1 January 2017 the assets limits are:

  • single recipients: $250,000 (homeowner); $450,000 (non-homeowner)
  • partnered recipients: $375,000 (homeowner); $575,000 (non-homeowner).

Payment may be deferred when liquid assets are equal to or exceed $5 500 (single) or $11,000 (couple or single with dependents).

Part 2 – Total net farm assets test

The second part assesses your family's total net farm assets. The total must be below $2.55 million.

Example assets test

Joe is a single applicant who owns his own home. He has a total of $150,000 non-farm assets and funds which are readily available. As this is below the $250,000 threshold, he passes the first assets test.

* Note Joe’s home was excluded from this test.

Joe also has $2.95 million worth of farm assets and owes his lender $800 000; thus his net farm assets total is $2.15 million. As his net farm assets are below the $2.55 million threshold, he also passes the second assets test. Based on Joe’s non-farm and net farm assets, Joe passes the two part assets test.

Changes to the assets tests

The definition of farm assets has been broadened to ensure assets used for the farm enterprise are assessed as farm assets rather than non-farm assets. For example, water assets and shares in marketing or processing entity (such as Murray Goulburn Co Ltd) cooperatives will be treated as farm assets when calculating the value of a person’s assets.

The clarification of these assets as farm assets will not change the net farm asset limit to be eligible for FHA.

Transition arrangements

If the applicant lodges a claim on or after 5 April 2017, water assets and shares in a marketing or processing entity that are used or held wholly or mainly for the operation of a farm enterprise will be assessed as farm assets.

If the applicant has lodged a claim prior to 5 April 2017, but has not yet had a decision made, their water assets and shares in a marketing or processing entity that are used or held wholly or mainly for the operation of a farm enterprise will be assessed as non-farm assets. If, however the applicant was granted payment prior to 5 April 2017, their water assets and shares in a marketing or processing entity will continue to be treated as they previously were.

See description above.

Asset hardship provisions

Where a person has substantial assets but cannot generate income from those assets and cannot rearrange their financial affairs, they may be eligible for asset hardship provisions.

Asset hardship provisions can give concessional treatment to farmers and their partners to allow them to have certain assets disregarded when calculating their rate of payment.

To qualify for hardship provisions a farmer or their partner must be:

  • in severe financial hardship; and
  • unable to sell or borrow against an asset.

If an applicant believes that they could be eligible for asset hardship provisions, they are encouraged to call the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316, to start their claim for consideration under hardship provisions.

Mutual obligation requirements

Once DHS has assessed your initial application you may begin receiving FHA. In order to continue to receiving FHA, you need to complete a Farm Financial Assessment (FFA) and a Financial Improvement Agreement (FIA).

Farm Financial Assessment

The FFA is an assessment of the financial position of you, your partner and your farm. The government provides up to $1 500 towards the cost of a prescribed advisor completing the Farm Financial Assessment.

Financial Improvement Agreement

The FIA is a plan for you and your partner to work towards improving your capacity for financial self-reliance. DHS Farm Household Case Officers will work with you to ensure that your individual situation is taken into account and to help identify activities to help improve your situation.

To support you in undertaking the approved activities in the FIA, DHS provides access to an Activity Supplement of up to $3 000 over the three years of payment.

Recipients in their final (third) year of payment have access to an additional $1 000 for high value activities, where there is a demonstrated need. This may assist recipients to transition off the FHA and increase their focus on actions to improve their situation, including finding alternative sources of income/employment.

Applying for FHA

The fastest way to apply for FHA is online. A paper claim form is available by calling the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316 or applicants can download a paper form. DHS Service Centres have self-service terminals available for farmers to access claim forms and telephones to contact the Farmer Assistance Hotline.

Farmers and their partners who require assistance with completing claim forms are encouraged to contact the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316 or their local Rural Financial Counsellor.