RBS welcomes further Federal funding for rural financial counselling support

South Australian and the Northern Territorian farming families being challenged by dry conditions will be beneficiaries of Federal Government funding confirmed for Rural Business Support (RBS) today.

RBS will receive further federal funding to expand its Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) by appointing two additional rural financial counsellors and a RFCS support officer. The appointments will take the number of rural financial counsellors working with farming families in SA and NT to 16.

RBS requested the additional funding after client numbers more than doubled during the past 12 months. The funds form part of a $740,000 injection to five RFCS providers nationally, announced by the Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie on Friday.

RBS Senior Rural Financial Counsellor Paula Kelly says the funding boost means the not-for-profit organisation can continue to support the families it is currently working with, plus manage any extra inquiries in coming months. The new RFCs will focus on supporting families in areas of most need in the northern parts of SA.

“While recent rainfall in some parts of the state provided a boost to crops and pasture, we recognise that other regions missed out – or rain was too late to make a difference for this season,” Ms Kelly said.

“We also recognise those producers experiencing their third or fourth dry year-in-a-row are facing extra challenges.

“We’re currently working with more than 500 farming families across South Australia and the Northern Territory, so having the capacity to bring on-board extra rural financial counsellors is certainly welcomed.

“Most of the families we’re supporting are looking for ways to manage financially with reduced cropping and livestock incomes. Our rural financial counsellors can help the owners of farm businesses to consider different options to manage their current financial situation.”

RBS also welcomed the announced changes to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA), which follow the organisation’s submission on a national review of the program.

Ms Kelly said the changes to off-farm income offset and a simplified application form should make this government program more accessible.

“While most people should be able to start an FHA application through their myGov account, our rural financial counsellors can provide assistance if people are finding the process difficult,” she said.

“Once people have been accepted for FHA, they can continue working with a rural financial counsellor for up to three years. This time frame also applies to farming families who may not be receiving FHA, but who are nonetheless eligible for RFCS assistance.

“While it’s tough for many at the moment, our team can help producers look at a range of options to help them manage their business through these challenging times, to recover, and to proactively plan for the future with renewed confidence.”

The RFCS, through RBS, is available to eligible owners and operators of a commercial primary production business. This includes grain and livestock producers, apiarists, fruit, wine grape and vegetable growers and irrigators.

The service is free, independent and confidential. Rural financial counsellors can also refer people to wellbeing support and other professional services as needed.

Any primary producers who are feeling concerned about how they will manage financially over the coming months are encouraged to contact Rural Business Support to talk with a rural financial counsellor by calling 1800 836 211.