Questions and answers

​​​​​​​Australian Government Drought Policy and Assistance

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What is the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Drought Program Reform?

The Intergovernmental Agreement on National Drought Program Reform (IGA) outlines how the Australian, state and territory governments will implement a new approach to drought programs. The agreement aims to:

  • assist farm families and primary producers to adapt to and prepare for the impacts of increased climate variability
  • encourage farm families and primary producers to adopt self-reliant approaches to manage their business risks
  • ensure that farm families in hardship have access to a household support payment that recognises the special circumstances of farmers
  • ensure that appropriate social support services are accessible to farm families
  • provide guidance to governments to ensure the provision of in-drought support is consistent with the intent of drought reform.

What programs will be delivered under the government’s new approach to drought program reform?

Programs delivered under the new approach aim to help farmers prepare for and manage the effects of drought and other challenges, rather than waiting until they are in crisis to offer assistance.

Is the drought support package announced in February 2014 part of National Drought Program Reform?

The Australian Government understands that, while it is important to encourage farmers to prepare for drought, during severe or prolonged droughts, some farmers will need additional support.

To ensure governments have flexibility to provide in-drought support when climatic conditions deteriorate, advice on the provision of in-drought support was included in the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Drought Program Reform. This advice helps to ensure that the provision of in-drought support is consistent with the intent of National Drought Program Reform.

Is Exceptional Circumstances assistance still available?

On 30 April 2012, the last Exceptional Circumstances (EC) declarations lapsed. There have been no EC applications or declarations since then. The EC arrangements ended 30 June 2014, and the new Farm Household Allowance began on 1 July 2014.

What assistance is available now?

The Australian Government has a range of assistance measures available for farmers in need.

What role do the states and territories play?

There are state and territory-specific initiatives to support farmers in their own region. For links to information on the individual state and territory government’s programs, visit the website of the primary industries department in your state or territory available on the Drought assistance contacts page.

The states and Northern Territory are also involved in delivering Farm Finance concessional loans and Drought concessional loans.

Farm Household Allowance

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Further information

Further Information on the Farm Household Allowance can be found in the Farm Household Allowance Questions and answers.

Farm Management Deposits

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How have Farm Management Deposits changed?

The Farm Management Deposits (FMD) Scheme helps primary producers to be more self-reliant and better manage fluctuations in their income.

The Australian Government has implemented enhancements to the FMD Scheme by increasing the non-primary production income threshold to $100 000, allowing eligible accounts to be consolidated and excluding FMD accounts from unclaimed money provisions.

These enhancements will allow more primary producers to use the FMD Scheme, and make it easier to manage existing FMD accounts.

Can an FMD account holder affected by drought withdraw their FMD account within 12 months of depositing and not lose their taxation concession?

Options for allowing early access to funds in FMD accounts by primary producers affected by drought are being considered as part of the drought review and investment issues in the Agricultural Competiveness White Paper process.

Farm business training

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What is a ‘national approach to farm business training’?

Training is an important part of building farmers’ capacity to prepare for and manage risk. Improved business skills support the productivity, profitability and viability of farm businesses. Training can also encourage better farm risk management practices and more informed decision making.

A new national approach to farm business training will be based on the development and roll-out of a farm business ‘skill set’. A skill set is a targeted group of units of competency delivered through the Vocational Education and Training system.

The national farm business training skill set was finalised in December 2013 after consultation with governments, members of the farming and training sectors and the public.

What units of competency are included in the skill set?

The national farm business training skill set includes the following units of competency:

  • Develop and review a business plan
  • Monitor and review business performance
  • Support and review business structures and relationships
  • Manage risk.

Under the IGA, the states and territories are responsible for encouraging the delivery and uptake of the new skill set.

What support will be available if I participate in the relevant training?

Each state and territory is responsible for its own arrangements to encourage the delivery and uptake of the new farm business skill set. Contact the primary industries department in your state or territory for more information.

Social support

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What is being done to improve social support services for farmers?

Dealing with the many challenges involved in farming, especially the challenges presented during droughts, can take a toll. To ensure our farmers are supported during tough times, the government is improving the coordination and collaboration of social support services. Governments, social support providers and communities are working together to ensure that people have access to social support services when the need them.

The social support measure announced on 26 February 2014 is enhancing social and mental health services in drought-affected areas, particularly Queensland and New South Wales. This measure is providing free professional help, including one-on-one counselling, family support services and referrals to people in need. Community engagement activities and events will be a key focus to link people to services that meet their individual needs.

The programmes, delivered by the Department of Social Services, receiving additional funding are the:

The Department of Social Services can be contacted by telephone on 1300 653 227.

This measure will complement the range of existing services and support that are available on an ongoing basis to assist people who are experiencing distress or mental illness. These services are available now. More information about mental health support is available from the Department of Health and Department of Social Services.

Tools and technologies to inform farmer decision making

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What is meant by ‘tools and technologies’?

This measure aims to improve and better promote the information, tools and technologies that can help farmers with their decision making.

State and territory government primary industries departments provide a wide variety of useful tools.

The Australian Government’s focus in relation to this measure is on the provision of weather and climate information.

What are some links to useful ‘tools and technologies’?

Bureau of Meteorology

The Bureau of Meteorology provides a range of weather, water and climate information products through its website. The latest climate information and forecasts are available on the Climate and past weather page and the Water and the Land page.

Managing Climate Variability Program

The Managing Climate Variability (MCV) Program is working to improve farmers’ understanding of and ease of access to climate information. The goals of this program are to:

The program is a partnership of several of the research and development corporations and managed by the Grains Research and Development Corporation. Further information on the program can be found on the Managing Climate Variability website.

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