What are ‘Exceptional Circumstances’?
Exceptional circumstances (EC) are rare and severe events outside those a farmer could normally be expected to manage using responsible farm management strategies. Specifically, they are events that occur on average once every 20 to 25 years and have an impact on income for a prolonged period (e.g. greater than 12 months).
What are the EC criteria?
To be classified as an EC event, the event:
- must be rare and severe, that is it must not have occurred more than once on average in every 20 to 25 years and must be a significant scale
- must result in a rare and severe downturn in farm income over a prolonged period of time (e.g. greater than 12 months)
- must not be predictable or part of a process of structural adjustment.
What is an EC declaration?
An area or region becomes ‘declared’ as experiencing an exceptional circumstances event (see below for more information on how regions become EC–declared). The EC declaration triggers short-term support for farmers in situations beyond the scope of normal risk management . Events triggering an EC declaration have an impact so severe and prolonged that they are likely to occur only once in every 20 to 25 years.
How do regions become EC-declared?
Communities or peak industry groups must approach their state or territory government in the first instance. When the state or territory government is confident that the event and the case fully meet the EC criteria, the state or territory can then lodge an application for EC assistance with the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
How is an EC application processed and assessed?
State and territory governments are responsible for compiling and submitting EC applications to the Australian Government. Once an application is received, the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry may refer it to the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) for assessment. NRAC is a skills-based independent advisory council to the Minister, and conducts a comprehensive assessment of the application against the agreed EC criteria, which may include an on-ground inspection.
On completion of its assessment, NRAC presents its recommendations to the Minister, who has responsibility, after consulting with the Australian Government, for declaring whether or not a particular area is experiencing EC. If a full EC declaration is announced, EC assistance, is available to eligible farmers for up to two years.
Which areas are currently EC declared?
For maps and descriptions of EC declared areas across Australia see exceptional circumstances (EC).
What assistance is available to farmers once an area is EC declared?
Household income support
Once an area is declared as experiencing EC, eligible farmers can apply to receive EC Relief Payments. EC Relief Payments are equivalent to the NewStart Allowance and are delivered by Centrelink.
Farmers should not self-assess their eligibility for EC Relief Payments but should call the Drought Assistance Hotline on 13 23 16. Farmers should note that drought payments delivered by Centrelink on behalf of the Australian Government are taxable.
Eligible farmers may also receive a Health Care Card and concessions under the Youth Allowance means tests.
Farmers in EC–declared areas can also access their Farm Management Deposits (FMDs) within 12 months of lodgement without losing their tax benefits, if they made the deposit before the declaration commenced.
For more information on other forms of assistance available to farmers visit the Drought Assistance web page.
What happens when an EC declaration is due to expire?
The National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) reviews EC–declared areas before their expiry date to assess whether an extension to the declaration is warranted. The EC review criteria differ from the EC criteria and take into consideration whether seasonal, agronomic and resource conditions have provided an opportunity for the majority of producers within the EC–declared area to begin to carry out typical farm management practices relevant to their enterprise type and production cycle.
As part of the review, NRAC assesses information from a number of sources, including analyses by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, state and territory governments and local producers. Additionally NRAC may undertake an on-ground inspection of the area.
If NRAC assesses an area as no longer being in EC, and the Minister accepts the advice not to extend the declaration, assistance ceases on the date the declaration ends. If NRAC supports extending the declaration, and the Minister agrees, assistance continues until the new declaration end date.
For more information on how to apply for EC income support, you should contact the Drought and Farmer Assistance Hotline on 13 23 16.
For information on other Australian Government programs and services available in regional Australia visit the Regional Entry Point website, or call them on 1800 026 222 (Monday to Friday 9am - 6pm EST).
09 Jul 2012