Farmers not seeking drought help welfare

Some 20,000 farmers eligible for drought relief are yet to claim it, as devastating conditions continue to put producers in financial hardship.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meeting farmers in June.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is urging farmers to apply for drought aid. (AAP)

Malcolm Turnbull has urged almost 20,000 farmers eligible for drought relief who are yet to claim welfare payments to contact a financial counsellor.

The prime minister appealed to farmers to use the federal government's Rural Financial Counselling Service to check whether they were eligible for the Farm Household Allowance.

Mr Turnbull made the plea on Sunday after announcing extra cash payments of up to $12,000 for drought-stricken farmers through the allowance.

"Don't get half-baked advice from someone over the fence or from an accountant that might not know about it," he told reporters in central NSW.

"Talk to people that know. They have the expertise and can tell you swiftly whether you qualify and guide you through the process."

The government will give the Rural Financial Counselling Service an extra $5 million to provide more support for farmers, particularly those applying for the allowance for the first time.

As dry conditions put producers in precarious positions across large swathes of eastern Australia, the government estimates 19,000 people who could be eligible are yet to apply for help.

The application process has come under fire, with arduous forms and requirements turning some farmers away from seeking support.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the application time had been cut from 25 days to 18.

"The financial service is where you should go first," Mr Littleproud said.

"Don't go to your accountant, they look after your tax. You have the rural financial service to look after you."

The assets test to claim the allowance has been increased from $2.6 million to $5 million, which the government believes will make about 8000 more households eligible.

In June, the government extended the Farm Household Allowance limit from three years to four years.

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Published 5 August 2018 at 11:10am
Source: AAP