Published on Aug 15, 2017

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Rural Financial Counselling Services


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The Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) provides free professional financial counselling to farmers who are suffering financial hardship.


The Lower Hunter Valley has a rich farming history that continues to this day. Farmers in the Cessnock local government area are involved in viticulture, poultry, beef cattle, orchard fruits and nuts, dairy and broadacre agriculture.


Boutique farms also flourish in the Lower Hunter Valley, providing specialist produce and adding to a thriving tourism industry. Yet farming is challenging work. Farmers face and overcome a raft of environmental, regulatory and financial challenges every year.


In the 2015 Regional Wellbeing Survey report by the University of Canberra and the Health Research Institute, researchers spoke to over 3,000 farmers across Australia. They found some of the most common barriers to running a farming business include:

  • rising inputs costs
  • drought
  • lack of adequate telecommunications infrastructure
  • falling prices for produce
  • increased environmental regulation
  • invasive species causing substantial damage to produce
  • difficulty obtaining labour for dairy and intensive livestock farms
  • lack of demand for produce
  • natural disasters
  • difficulty accessing affordable finance
  • difficulty transporting produce to market

Providing solutions and aid to the farming community to help overcome the financial ramifications of these challenges is essential. The RFCS can talk to farmers, fishing and forestry growers and harvesters, as well as people running small related businesses.


They offer a wide range of services including help:

  • negotiating with lenders
  • identify financial and business options
  • develop an action/business plan
  • access the Farm Household Allowance (FHA)
  • information and referrals for agricultural advisors, educational services, accounts and the Department of Human Services
  • succession planning
  • referrals for mediation, personal, emotional or social counselling services


The NSW Rural Financial Counselling Services Northern Region opened an office at Tocal.


Agricultural College in March 2017. Fiona Mead is the rural financial councillor based at Tocal. Fiona can be contacted on 4939-8942.


The Farm Household Allowance is available through Centrelink offers help for farmers and their families experiencing financial hardship.


The Rural Assistance Authority; Farm Innovation Fund is a package to assist primary producers identify and address risks to their farming enterprise, improve permanent farm infrastructure and ensure long-term productivity and sustainable land use, aiding in meeting changes to seasonal conditions.