The Western Australian Farmers Federation (Inc.) (WAFarmers) believes an assistance package announced by the State Government to help struggling farmers misses the mark.
The package is in three parts: $5 million to provide financial support of up to $25,000 to enable eligible farm businesses to operate this season; $1.8 million towards additional social support and rural counselling services in the Wheatbelt and; Exit grants of up to $20,000 towards living and transitional expenses for farmers who have owned their farm for at least five years and have net assets of no more than $450,000 after the sale.
WAFarmers Director of Policy, Trevor Lovelle, said while the package would be of assistance to some farmers and those wanting to leave the industry, it missed the operational farmers that really needed a hand up from the State Government.
“WAFarmers presented a $100 million Seasonal Finance Assistance Scheme to the Premier. The proposed scheme would have provided carry-on finance on strict commercial terms to primary producers who had exhausted conventional financing avenues yet demonstrated they were continually viable.
“Our scheme costs less than the State Government’s package, because our scheme involves repayment of loans rather than receiving a handout.
“We believe this scheme is what farmers need and WAFarmers has proven itself as the farm organisation who actually cares and fights for farmers and that is what we intend to do.”
He said the funding for rural counselling services was a positive step to assist farmers in preparing their business plans and budgets.
“The Rural Financial Counselling Service plays an important role in assisting the state’s farmers and with the lack of available finance at the moment their role in farming becomes even more critical.”
Mr Lovelle said WAFarmers would continue to lobby the State Government to assist the state’s farmers.
“We welcome the Premier’s comments about reduction of red tape and crop insurance products. These are two major issues for our members and we will be looking forward to working with the State Government on these matters.
“We keep hearing about the opportunities for West Australian agriculture in Asia in 2025 and 2050. The reality is we need to help the agricultural industry now, to reach 2014 and 2015 so we can reap the benefits down the track,” Mr Lovelle concluded.
Details of the WAFarmers Proposed Seasonal Finance Assistance Scheme
- Value of scheme would be $100 million – $200,000 loans for 500 farm enterprises to be paid back within three years;
- The scheme to be administered by the Rural Business Development Corporation under the Rural Business Development Corporation Act 2000;
- A third party to provide financial and commercial assessments of assistance scheme applicants to determine if applicants have appropriate security and capacity to repay the loan; and
- The scheme to be funded through a re-allocation of commitments totaling approximately $360 million made by the Liberal I National Government prior to the recent State elections to free up the necessary $100 million.