RURAL AID: Emerald based rural financial counsellor Tricia Laffer works with primary producers to alleviate financial stress.
RURAL AID: Emerald based rural financial counsellor Tricia Laffer works with primary producers to alleviate financial stress.

Financial help for rural producers

IT’S no secret that times are tough for primary producers in our region at the moment.

Continuing drought and rising costs are increasing financial stress for the entire rural industry.

The Rural Financial Counselling Service works with rural producers to identify business options and make informed decisions to secure the financial future of their enterprise.

“Rural financial counsellors are based in local government areas,” rural financial counsellor Tricia Laffer said.

“So whatever shire you’re in, you have access to assistance.”

Fully funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments, the services of RFCS are free, impartial and confidential.

To be eligible for help, a primary producer need only prove that he or she is under some kind of financial hardship or could be at risk in the future.

“That could be a result of things out of people’s control, such as our current drought conditions or their life stage, literacy or adoption of technology or just pure bad luck,” Ms Laffer said.

“Unfortunately sometimes things just go wrong in people’s lives. Their incomes are substantially reduced, their expenses are likely to be going crazy and their physical, financial and emotional reserves are running low.

“The strain this puts on people can be enormous, so sometimes it’s helpful to have someone that understands your situation and can provide some guidance around your business alternatives.”

RFCS’s offerings are diverse and its focus is on boosting people’s awareness of their financial position and working to improve that position.

“One client’s circumstances saw him physically and socially isolated and had no financial control of his situation,” Ms Laffer said.

“We worked with him to develop his understanding of technology to gain access to internet banking, to stay on top of emails and keep connected with others.

“Sometimes it’s the simple things.”

In other situations, the RFCS might identify a person’s eligibility for a government program and help with applications.

“We’re fully mobile and can come to you,” Ms Laffer said.

“We usually meet with clients on their property to better understand their situation.

“We walk alongside you.”

The service can prepare cash flows and business plans too, which puts a rural producer’s circumstances and thinking on paper. Every situation and every solution is different.

Additionally, government drought relief is available for primary producers in the Central Highlands.

Federally that includes dam desilting rebates, on-farm emergency water infrastructure rebates, drought loans, farm household allowances and taxation measures.

On a state level, there is a drought relief assistance scheme, sustainability loans and other drought assistance measures.

“Just call us up and have a chat,” Ms Laffer said.

“We can identify what kind of situation you’re in and where we can assist.

“It’s just about starting that conversation with us.”

The RFCS does not provide legal, taxation or financial advice or emotional counselling.

“For assistance that is ­outside our scope, we have an extensive referral network of professional and social or emotional counselling avenues,” Ms Laffer said.

The RFCS can engage with clients for up to three years.

Visit or phone the RFCS Emerald ­office on 0447 789 109.

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