Help is at hand! Financial assistance in tough times


By Adrian Smith
Senior Land Services Officer - Mixed Farming Systems

P: 03 5881 9932 | M: 0447 778 515 | E:

To say life on the land has had its challenges over the last few years is an understatement!

Whether it be drought, fire, storms or now an international pandemic – our resilience, spirit and intestinal fortitude have all been sorely tested.

Australians, and particularly those on the land, are renown for our stoicism – some may call it indifference! – but regardless, such challenges can test the best of people, and can take a physical, emotional and psychological toll.

There are a vast array of people, organisations and agencies who are only too willing to provide help, guidance and assistance – even if it’s as simple as having a chat to someone on the phone.

Looking after yourself is priority No. 1

There are some key messages to keep in mind:

  • Look after yourself, and those around you.
  • Get a good night’s sleep – this can make a huge difference to how you see things.
  • Take a break if you can (which can be difficult in the current environment).
  • Keep doing the things that you enjoy – hobbies, or a round of golf!
  • Accept some help – you don’t need to do everything on your own.
  • Stay connected – with family, friends and colleagues.

If things are getting overwhelming, or you know of someone who is struggling, scheduling an appointment with your doctor is a good place to start. Other services you might consider include:

While the main focus of your response to these external challenges should be your own safety, security and wellbeing (and those around you), your financial situation, and the additional stress such circumstances can place on your finances, can no doubt add to the stress burden.

How can this burden be eased?

‘It’s all too hard and the paperwork is endless’

There is a wide range of financial assistance measures and services available for landholders who have been impacted by natural disasters. In some ways, it can be daunting and a little over-whelming trying to navigate your way through the (what may seem) complex array of financial assistance – and it is often why many people don’t fully avail themselves of the help which exists.

There are plenty of reasons I’ve heard over the years about the barriers to seeking assistance, including:

  • Personal and community factors, including self-pride
  • Being overwhelmed, particularly with the bureaucracy and paperwork
  • ‘I’ll be right – there are plenty of others worse off than me’
  • ‘I might not be eligible anyway’.

All perfectly valid. However, if you have been impacted, and you fall within the eligibility guidelines, then you are entitled to receive the level of financial support deemed appropriate for your individual circumstances.


Nothing in life is free – investing a little bit of your own time and effort may result in significant reward and assistance, which might be just the thing that keeps you and your business afloat in the short term, and help to build a stronger business over the longer term.

Financial assistance is available

While are lives have been overtaken by COVID-19, the latest figures released by NSW DPI indicate over 92 per cent of NSW is still in a stage of drought – this may have been lost on some, but for those still daily feeding livestock or waiting to plant next season’s crop, it is still very much front of mind.

The following provides a summary of the wide range of financial assistance to which primary producers may be eligible, and from which organisation it can be sourced.



  1. Emergency Drought Relief Transport Subsidy (NSW Rural Assistance Authority): up to 50% of the full cost of freight (up to a maximum/km/journey) for the transport of:
    • Stock to/from agistment
    • Stock to sale/slaughter
    • Transport of fodder
    • Transport of stock and domestic (household) drinking water.
    • From 1st July also includes transport of farm chemicals, fertiliser and seed to farms.

    Up to $50,000 is available per farm business.

  2. Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate (NSW RAA): A rebate of 25% of costs incurred from 1st July 2018 for;
    • New purchases
    • installation of pipes
    • Water storages and water pumps
    • De-silting dams, and
    • Associated power supplies.

    Up to $25,000 is available per farm business.

  3. Farm Business Skills (NSW RAA): Available to provide access to vocational and skills training in the following categories:
    • Risk management
    • Financial management
    • Business management
    • Succession planning.

Up to $5,000 for the first individual. Additional $1,000 available per person for a maximum of four people for a total maximum of $9,000 per farm business

  1. Drought Assistance Fund (NSW RAA): Allows eligible primary producers to implement systems and management practices that enhance the sustainability of their farm business.  This loan will fund:
    • the transport of stock, fodder and water
    • genetic banking of breeding herds
    • installation of on-farm fodder and water infrastructure
    • activities that promote profitability and resilience as a result of the on-farm investment

    Up to $50,000 per eligible farm business, interest free, up to 7 years, low interest rate, no repayments required in the first two years.

  2. Farm Innovation Fund (NSW RAA): The Farm Innovation Fund helps farmers to:
    • improve farm productivity - reduce risks and improve efficiencies by building fodder and grain storage facilities, sheds, fencing, roadworks and solar power conversions.
    • manage adverse seasonal conditions - improve water efficiencies with irrigation systems, cap and piping of bores, new dams, install water tanks and desilting of ground tanks.
    • ensure long term sustainability - increase the viability of a farm business and improve pasture and soil health, plant trees for shade and wildlife corridors, eradicate weeds, flood proof property and fence river banks.

    Up to $1,000,000, up to 20 years, low-interest, loan to be fully drawn down in first 12 months, and adequate security to be supplied.

  3. Drought Loan (Regional Investment Corporation): Loan to be used to prepare for drought, or manage or recover from the effects of drought, including:
    • refinance your debt
    • pay for operating expenses or capital
    • access new debt for operating expenses and capital

    Up to $2,000,000, up to 10 years, with at least 50% of total debt remaining with a commercial lender, low interest, first 2 years interest free, then 3 years interest only, then principal and interest for remainder of the 10 year term. After 10 years, you can refinance any remaining balance with a commercial lender.

  4. Farm Investment Loan (Regional Investment Corporation): Loan to be used to strengthen your farm business, take steps to access markets interstate or outside Australia and/or prepare for, manage through or recover from drought, including:
  • refinance your debt
  • enhance your productivity
  • pay for operating expenses or capital
  • fund drought-related activities

Up to $2,000,000, up to 10 years, with at least 50% of total debt remaining with a commercial lender, low interest, first 5 years interest only, then principal and interest for remainder of the 10 year term. After 10 years, you can refinance any remaining balance with a commercial lender.



  1. Special Disaster Grant - Bushfires (NSW RAA): Available to eligible primary producers to contribute towards the costs of:
    • clean-up, removal of debris and disposal of dead livestock;
    • repair or replacement (purchase or hire/lease) of damaged assets such as farm buildings and essential plant and equipment (excluding housing).
    • salvaging crops, health maintenance of livestock and poultry; and
    • fencing, pasture restoration, and infrastructure (including access and internal roads).

    Up to $75,000 for eligible primary producers.

  2. Bushfire Recovery Grant (Service NSW): The bushfire recovery grant is to help pay for costs associated with the clean-up and reinstatement of a small business or non-profit organisation’s operations. The costs could include, but are not limited to:
    • payment for tradespeople to conduct safety inspections
    • equipment and materials required for cleaning up
    • the removal and disposal of damaged goods and materials
    • repairing premises and internal fittings
    • hiring equipment and/or replacing stock needed to resume operations.

    Up to $50,000 is available for eligible primary producers.

    Note: The bushfire recovery grant replaces the disaster-recovery grant of up to $15,000 for small business, that was administered by the Rural Assistance Authority (RAA).

    If a payment for the RAA grant has already been received, the amount will be deducted from the maximum amount of $50,000 available under this new grant.

    That means that if you received $15,000 from the RAA, the maximum you can apply for in this application is $35,000.

  3. Natural Disaster Transport Subsidy (NSW RAA): Available to farmers affected by a declared natural disaster event for the transport of:
    • Stock to/from agistment
    • Stock to sale/slaughter
    • Transport of fodder
    • Transport of water.

    Up to $15,000 per financial year.

  4. Animal Welfare Transport Subsidy (NSW RAA): Available where:
    • Animals are at significant risk
    • There is little or no feed and/or water available, including both pasture and stored fodder
    • Animals leave the farming enterprise permanently and
    • The business demonstrates a significant financial need.

    Up to $20,000 per financial year.

  5. Rural Financial Counselling Service - The Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW provides free and impartial rural financial counselling to eligible primary producers, fishers and small rural businesses who are suffering financial hardship, and who have no alternative sources of impartial support, to manage the challenges of change and adjustment. Call 1800 319 458.

  6. Back to Business Program (Meat and Livestock Australia): A service which allows producers in fire-affected regions to access up to three free one-on-one-sessions with a local farm business consultant to help put their business back on track. To register, contact John Francis from Holmes Sackett in Wagga on 02 6925 1758.
  1. Disaster Relief Loan – Primary Producers (NSW RAA): Primary producers directly affected by a declared natural disaster who are in urgent and genuine need of assistance, may be eligible for low interest loans to help a farm business to:
    • continue to operate your farm businesses for the next twelve months or until the next income is received
    • replace and repair damage caused to the property and associated improvements not covered by insurance.

    Up to $130,000, up to 10 years, with the first two years interest and repayment free.

  2. Special Disaster Loan - Bushfires working capital loan (NSW RAA): This loan can be used for essential expenses while the business returns to its normal level of trading such as; wages, rent, goods or services, fodder and water for livestock or transporting livestock or produce.

    Up to $50,000, up to 5 years, with the first two years interest and repayment free.

  3. Special Disaster Loan - Bushfires recovery loan (NSW RAA): This loan is available for significantly larger investments such as replacing or repairing damaged infrastructure, purchasing livestock or replanting areas that were affected by the disaster.

Up to $500,000, up to 10 years, with the first two years interest and repayment free.


Both State and Federal Governments have implemented a range of measures to help individuals and small businesses (including primary producers) ‘ride out the storm’. This is an ever-changing environment, but at the time of writing (6th April, 2020), the broad range of assistance which primary producers may be eligible for/interested in included:

Small business
  • Job Keeper payments (for those with staff)
  • Cash Boost incentives linked to lodging your BAS/IAS (for those with staff) – between $20-$100,000 for eligible small businesses
  • Apprentice Subsidies
  • Deferral options in payment of tax bills to the ATO
  • Investment incentives for acquiring plant and equipment
  • Payroll tax deferrals and relief measures
  • Some easing of terms related to paying Land tax
  • NSW Small Business Support fund – offering up to $10,000 per business
  • Special supplements and one-off payments from Centrelink
  • Job seeker payments
  • Early release of super
  • Lower deeming rates for those on an Aged Pension
  • Reduced drawdown rates for pensions held by self funded retirees

It is also worthy to note that financial institutions are likely to be very approachable at the moment, with many offering:

  • Deferral of repayments
  • Fee waivers
  • Lower interest rates
  • Simpler lending terms for access to working capital

As always, you need to check out your eligibility and the guidelines, but all or some of these schemes may help you and your business in the short, medium and long term.

Who can I talk to about what I might be eligible to receive?
  • NSW DPI Rural Resilience Officers - within our area contact Danny Byrnes (0400 374 258)
  • Rural Financial Counselling Service – Tony Flett (at Deniliquin – 03 5881 5766) or Graham Christie (at Albury – 0438 444 540)
  • Your own accountant
  • The NSW Rural Assistance Authority (1800 678 593)
  • Service NSW (13 77 88)
  • Local land Services (1300 795 299 or your local office)
  • Private consultants and advisors

One further excellent source of information on all things related to natural disaster assistance can be found at the following website:

Whatever your view on seeking help and support as a primary producer, there is a wide range of financial, emotional and community support that is available. If nothing else, familiarise yourself with you may be entitled to receive. You can then make an informed decision on whether you wish to pursue one, some or all of the measures that can assist.

Most importantly, look after yourself, your family and those around you, and we will come through the other side, hopefully much stronger and better placed to face the next challenge!

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