I thank senators for their contributions to this debate on the very important Farm Household Support Amendment (Relief Measures) Bill (No. 1) 2019. We know farming is a long game.
Support in times of hardship is part of what is needed to help farmers and their communities through these difficult times. There are times like now when widespread drought conditions impact on primary production and the livelihoods of our farmers and their families. That's why the farm household allowance was originally created with strong bipartisan support to make sure farmers doing it tough have the support they need. Since the introduction of FHA in 2014 over $365 million in fortnightly payments have been made to almost 12,700 farmers and their partners.
The changes contained within this bill not only allow eligible farmers to receive the payment every four years out of 10 and allow farm business losses of up to $200,000 to be deducted from other income, including agistment; it also allows the minister to create a rule to make drought relief payments, with the first in eligible pockets before Christmas. Let me be clear: the farm household allowance is not a drought measure; however, we fully acknowledge that many of the proud farmers who access farm household allowance do so because of drought. This bill will improve the financial situation of farmers and their families who are facing real financial hardship. It is the first step by the Australian government to implement the recommendations made in the independent review, Rebuilding the FHA: a better way forward for supporting farmers in financial hardship. Support for farmers and their families in drought-affected communities remains the government's most urgent priority. I commend this bill to the chamber.