Programme 1.12 Rural programmes
- support eligible primary producers and small rural businesses with targeted assistance to manage adjustment pressures and remain viable in the long-term.
We managed several programmes to provide targeted financial assistance to primary producers and small rural businesses. These included the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) and the Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme.
More information is available on the department's website.
The department also administered the Subsidised Interest Rate Scheme, to assist individuals and businesses directly affected by the temporary suspension in 2011 of live cattle exports to Indonesia.
Key performance indicators
|Key performance indicator||2013–14 target||Performance|
|Work with the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) providers to acquit the funds in accordance with the relevant agreed governance documentation||100% of funds acquitted||Met||Met||Met|
|Provide effective support across rural Australia through the RFCS programme||Support 14 service providers||Met||Met||N/A|
|Work with the RFCS providers to provide the services specified in the agreed governance documentation||100% of services provided||Met||Met||Met|
|Eligible applicants have access to cash flow to assist with the impacts of the temporary suspension of the live cattle export trade to Indonesia||75 a||Met||Met||Met|
|Integrated scientific and economic research–underpinning research, advice, forecast, projects, products and data services meet stakeholder expectations and are delivered on time, within budget and are of high quality||85%||Met||Met||-|
a This is the number of recipients. Applications closed on 10 February 2012. Payments will be made to recipients for up to two years. Numbers reported are not aggregated across financial years.
Increasing resources to better support farmers in debt
The RFCS programme is funded by the Australian Government, in partnership with the state and Northern Territory governments. The programme makes grants to state and regional organisations to provide free financial counselling to eligible primary producers, fishers and small rural business owners in financial hardship. It also provides referrals to other sources of assistance.
The Government allocated an additional $5.9 million to the RFCS programme over two years (2013–14 and 2014–15) to strengthen the financial resilience of farmers with high debt levels. During the year, we delivered funds to allow the RFCS to recruit, train and deploy an additional 17 full-time equivalent rural financial counsellors to support farmers facing financial hardship.
Reviewing the Rural Financial Counselling Service
The minister asked the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) to review the RFCS programme. We provided secretariat support to the NRAC in its consultation with stakeholders around Australia. We continue to provide support to the NRAC as it progresses its report on the programme's effectiveness and efficiency.
Supporting families in financial hardship
We oversaw the delivery of RFCS case management services to Transitional Farm Family Payment (TFFP) and Interim Farm Household Allowance recipients. Under the TFFP, all recipients were required to work with a rural financial counsellor to develop and implement an action plan to improve their long-term financial security. Under the Interim Farm Household Allowance, recipients needed to meet a rural financial counsellor to discuss their financial situation and agree to an action plan.
Enhancing the effectiveness of Farm Management Deposits
In 2013–14, legislation was introduced to change the Farm Management Deposits Scheme, increasing the non-primary production threshold to $100 000 from $65 000, allowing the consolidation of eligible accounts and permanently excluding accounts from the unclaimed money provisions.
These changes will allow more farmers to access the scheme and make existing accounts easier to manage. The threshold and consolidation changes will take effect from 1 July 2015, while the unclaimed moneys exemption commenced on 28 May 2014.
Assisting the live cattle industry
We continued to work with state bodies to deliver the Subsidised Interest Rate Scheme. The scheme provided subsidies on the interest on new and extended commercial loans to the value of $300 000 per applicant. During the year, 75 businesses received approximately $400 000. The programme closed on 30 June 2014, having provided more than $1.1 million in assistance.
Supporting new government measures
A new $320 million drought assistance package was announced in February 2014, and included the Interim FHA. In addition to high workloads associated with the drought and high farm business debt levels, rural financial counsellors helped many clients to complete applications for the Interim Farm Household Allowance, and to meet their agreed obligations.
Implementing the Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme
We worked to implement the Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme in all states and the Northern Territory. The scheme makes available $420 million over two years (2013–14 and 2014–15) for concessional loans to eligible farm businesses that are experiencing difficulties servicing their current levels of debt.
The types of loans available, including the terms of the loans and loan amounts, differ between states and the Northern Territory because the scheme is tailored to meet the needs of each jurisdiction's farming sector.
The scheme was implemented to tight timeframes and required extensive stakeholder engagement to support the development of arrangements underpinning the delivery of the scheme including guidelines, service level agreements and loan agreements.