Drought-stricken areas of Grey have become an election battleground

CONTENDER: Centre Alliance candidate for Grey Andrea Broadfoot, centre, chats with her parents Rosalie and Brian Broadfoot of Port Pirie.
CONTENDER: Centre Alliance candidate for Grey Andrea Broadfoot, centre, chats with her parents Rosalie and Brian Broadfoot of Port Pirie.
VOTE: Grey MP Rowan Ramsey, accompanied by his wife Teresa, left, casts his vote at the 2016 federal election in Port Pirie.

VOTE: Grey MP Rowan Ramsey, accompanied by his wife Teresa, left, casts his vote at the 2016 federal election in Port Pirie.

Changes need to be made to federal drought aid programs to make them more accessible for struggling farmers.

This is according to Centre Alliance candidate for Grey Andrea Broadfoot.

Ms Broadfoot said the qualifying criteria for aid failed to consider each applicant on a "case by case" basis.

If she wins the seat of Grey at the federal election, she will seek to meet the agriculture minister in the winning government to ask for changes to the guidelines. Her recommendations to the Farm Household allowance would include:

  • Income generated from destocking made exempt from the criteria
  • Transport subsidies made available
  • Health care card eligibility made easier
  • Asset limit to remain at $5 million.

"Our farmers are doing it tough and when, out of desperation, they do reluctantly reach out for financial aid, they are being unfairly knocked back," she said.

"Wherever I go throughout the electorate, I am hearing the same stories - farmers in desperate need of financial aid being denied because they don't meet the criteria.

"One told me her family was knocked back for aid because her income was $5000 above the threshold - that was only because they had been forced to destock their farm to buy feed for their other stock.

"That is simply unfair. The qualifying criteria needs to be more sympathetic to those kinds of situations.

"Other concerns have also been raised including the timing of application deadlines for some programs - typically November at the height of harvest - and the fact that farming people are completing applications to agencies where information-sharing should be able to auto-populate applications."

Grey MP Rowan Ramsey said the drought was causing financial and emotional stress for a lot of producers and towns.

"This is why the government has already committed almost $2 billion to the drought and on June 30 a new Drought Future Fund will be created with $3.9 billion and it will distribute $100 million yearly to support farmers to better prepare for drought," he said.

"Low-interest loans for drought and farm business modification, Farm Household Allowance, the doubling of the Farm Management Deposit limits, significant increases in mental health programs and financial aid for preparing applications are parts of the commitment by the government to help farmers.

"Additionally, after personal approaches to the Prime Minister, I was able to obtain $15 million for drought-affected councils in Grey to invest in community infrastructure optimising spending with local businesses.

"I was speaking to an electrician with a young family in a country town recently who says the work coming to him through this fund has made a huge difference to being able to ride through this drought enabling him and his family to stay in the town.

"While I have a lot of sympathy for excluding income from forced livestock sales for the purposes of Farm Household Support, it would be very complicated.

"Applicants would need to prove sales were due to drought which would be open to rorting.

"The government has made big increases in the Rural Financial Counselling Service specifically to tackle the burdens associated with applications and change in circumstances.

"I am proud the government has a strong commitment to farmers affected by drought and that it is doing more than any government has done in the past."