Rural counselling service faces uncertain future

A REVIEW of a key rural counselling service that helps farmers get through tough financial times faces an uncertain future, Federal Labor says.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce on Monday confirmed a review of the Rural Finanncial Counselling Service was underway, due September.

Mr Joyce said the "business-as-usual review" was part of "routine government processes", and it was 10 years since the program last faced a review.

The program, which offers grants to non-profit groups to counsel primary producers on financial issues during floods and droughts, has run since the mid 1980s.

But doubt about the future of the service was fuelled by the National Commission of Audit before the budget, which recommended axing the program.

While the government's first budget did not abolish it, the review will assess the delivery of the program, and if its role could be incorporated into other government agencies.

But Labor's agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the review was coming at the "worst possible time" after the government's $320 million drought relief package is yet to be delivered.

"The review will ensure that the Australian Government continues to provide quality services that support farmers in tough times," Mr Joyce said.

Mr Joyce also said as part of the review, state governments, agriculture groups and the wider organisations involved would be consulted.



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