As a first step - any primary producers and small rural business owners who are experiencing financial difficulties or who have concerns about the financial impacts of the continuing dry season can contact the Rural Financial Counselling Service, which provides free, confidential and impartial business support and information.
The Rural Financial Counselling service is also able to provide support in the application process for Farm Household Allowance and Farm Management Deposits.
In South Australia, this program is delivered through Rural Business Support.
Its offices are located in:
- Murray Bridge
- Port Lincoln
You can contact Rural Business Support by calling 1800 836 211 (Freecall).
For more information visit ruralbusinesssupport.org.au/rural-financial-counselling-service
Additional business and financial assistance can also be found through the following services and programs:
Additional Australian Taxation Office advice
P: ATO Hotline 13 11 42
The ATO offers help for drought-affected taxpayers to manage their tax. Financial hardship assistance is available for those having difficulty meeting the basic costs of living, or other financial hardship, where paying income tax or activity statement refunds can be prioritised.
The Federal Government announced recently announced changes to the accelerated depreciation to encourage investment in drought preparedness. Accelerated depreciation arrangements for new water and fodder infrastructure and fencing are available to help farmers prepare for drought, assist with their cash flow and encourage on-farm investment.
These measures include:
- depreciation of water facilities over 1 year (previously 3 years)
- depreciation of fodder infrastructure storage over 3 years (previously up to 50 years)
- depreciation of fencing over 1 year (previously up to 30 years).
More advice on tax options and federal government assistance is available on this Supporting Farmers and Rural Communities Fact Sheet ().
Farm Business Concessional Loan Scheme
Low Interest Loans
The Federal Government provides low interest loans for farmers for farm investment, debt restructuring, operating expenses and drought recovery and preparedness activities. These loans are now administered by the Federal Government’s central entity, the Regional Investment Corporation.
The loans include:
- variable interest rate, currently 3.58% (as at 28 August 2018)
- loan terms of 10 years, including an interest only period
- up to $2 million
Of interest to SA:
- producers may be able to demonstrate they are drought-affected if for example they have increased cost of production due to demand for fodder from Eastern states
- producers may re-finance old concessional loans and business related credit card debt if eligible
Farm Household Allowance (FHA)
P: Farmer Assistance Hotline on 132 316
The Farm Household Allowance (FHA) provides eligible farmers and their partners who are experiencing financial hardship with assistance and support to improve their long-term financial situation. The Federal Government recently announced changes to the FHA, which may benefit your farming family.
The changes include:
- An additional FHA supplement of up to $12,000 for couples or $7200 for singles. The supplement will be paid in two lump sum instalments (on 1 September 2018 and 1 March 2019) To be eligible for both instalments applications need to be lodged by 30 November.
- Increasing the asset threshold from $2.63 million to $5 million, meaning more farming families will now be eligible to access FHA assistance.
- These latest measures also follow the extension of FHA from three years to four years from August 1 2018.
Rural Business Support can help eligible families access their FHA entitlements or provide more information. You can call them on 1800 836 211.
Farm Debt Mediation
Office of the Small Business Commissioner
P: 8303 2026 or 1800 702 722
The new Farm Debt Mediation Bill enforces a mandatory mediation process before a creditor is able to foreclose on a farming operation. The legislation ensures South Australia’s farmers will be better protected and have greater financial security.
The Small Business Contact Service provides a contact point for small business owners and people considering starting a small business to access business information. It is a referral service, directing telephone enquiries to the most appropriate sources of business information, counselling, advice or services.
Multi-Peril Crop Insurance
South Australia recently waived the stamp duty fees on multi-peril crop insurance – which can reduce the cost by several thousand dollars. Multi-peril crop insurance covers production costs incurred by farmers if their crop fails due to a nominated peril – which in South Australia includes drought. For more advice reach out to your local Rural Financial Counsellor or agriculture/business consultant.
Farm Management Deposits (FMD)
P: Australian Taxation Office Business Tax Enquiries phone 13 28 66
The FMD Scheme assists primary producers to deal more effectively with varying income. It is designed to increase the self-reliance of Australian primary producers by helping them manage their financial risk and meet their business costs in low-income years by building up cash reserves.
The scheme allows eligible primary producers to set aside pre-tax income from primary production in years of high income, which they can draw on in years of low income. Income deposited into an FMD account is tax deductible in the year the deposit is made. It becomes taxable income in the year in which it is withdrawn.
Telecommunication Bill Assistance
Contact your telecommunication services directly or a Rural Financial Counsellor to assist with negotiations. All telecommunications services have hardship policies to allow people who are doing it tough to negotiate payment arrangements. Most will provide flexibility with the following;
- Long term payment arrangements
- Reviewing and removing administrative fees
- Placing customers on more affordable plans
- Conversion to pre-paid services
- Allowing incoming and emergency calls only to fixed lines.
Legal Advice Line
P: 1300 366 424 (local call costs except for mobiles)
Free telephone legal advice is available for preliminary information, advice and referrals.
P: 1300 366 424 (local call costs except for mobiles)
When services beyond simple legal advice are needed, the Legal Services Commission of South Australia can arrange a Legal Aid grant to be paid direct to a lawyer to cover legal costs. However, if legal aid is granted, you will have to pay a contribution towards your legal costs, depending on what you can afford.