Private forest growers welcome expanded bushfire relief eligibility

The Institute of Foresters of Australia and Australian Forest Growers (IFA/AFG) have welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to expand eligibility criteria and extend the application timeframe for the $75,000 Primary Producer bushfire recovery grants.

IFA/AFG Vice President and Chair of the Forest Growers Committee, Kevin Harding said the announcement was a win for private forest growers, many who were previously ineligible for the grant due to not meeting off-farm income requirements.

"This announcement is a very welcome recognition that many small private growers need off-farm income to finance their very significant and long term investment in plantation establishment and management,” Mr Harding said.

“The IFA/AFG has been working with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment since February 2020, advocating for Private Forest Growers by seeking an adjustment to the rules around the $75,000 grant criteria that made many ineligible. “On behalf of the IFA/AFG I’d like to recognise the important work of the Department staff who researched and developed this much needed policy position to address our concerns which were raised to assist our private forest grower members.

“The grant was intended to support regional communities impacted by the catastrophic 2019/2020 bushfire season to secure recovery funding but was initially focused on primary producers with regular annual farming income.

“We’re very pleased private forest growers have now been included in the criteria and will be given the same level of assistance as other primary producers to recover from the many challenges faced by industry this year.

The changes to the grant eligibility requirements include:

  • Where an applicant’s income from primary production is less than 50 per cent of their total income, the applicant may nonetheless be eligible for a grant if it can be demonstrated that; the applicant is a forest plantation grower, or a private land holder who actively manages forest resources, with the intention of deriving income from commercial timber and/ or wood fibre production;
  • Removal of the requirement that an applicant’s total off-farm income is less than $100,000 gross per annum.

Applications have been extended to 15 December 2020 in NSW, and 31 December 2020 in QLD, SA, and VIC.

More details are available here. These $75k grants are available in the defined disaster areas to replace or rebuild plant, equipment or livestock that have been directly impacted by the fire and where those needs are not covered by an existing insurance policy.

These grants can help with cleaning up, salvaging and harvesting damaged crops including tree plantations damaged by fire, smoke, ash and/or soot.

For further information:
Becher Townshend, Font PR, 0418 370 661