Farm Finance access for QLD and VIC

By: Carene Chong

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Struggling Victorian and Queensland farm businesses can now look forward to concessional loans of up to $650,000 made available by the Federal Government under the Farm Finance scheme.

Farm Finance access for QLD and VIC
The Farm Finance scheme was announced in late April by the Australian Government, aiming to provide much needed financial assistance to farmers across the country.

Queensland was the first state to sign up while Victoria jumped on board today.

Both state governments have agreed to terms with the Australian Government, allowing the scheme to provide $60 million over two years to support farmers struggling with debt.

Federal Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says the initiative will provide assistance to eligible businesses in the form of low interest loans, with an initial focus on debt restructuring.

"Reducing debt repayments in the short term will help alleviate the pressure on farmers and provide them with breathing room to continue to run their businesses and support their families," he says.

"Under the program, farmers could save up to $81,000 in interest repayments over the five year concessional period."

Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh says while the Federal scheme was announced for productivity and debt reconstruction, the package will be entirely for debt restructuring in QLD.

He adds the package would be sufficient to assist around 100-150 viable producers with temporary debt financing difficulties.

"The assistance package is now more critical than ever, with many producers still suffering the effects of Tropical Cyclone Oswald and more than 44 per cent of the western and northern parts of the state now in drought," he says.

""QRAA (Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority) is now in the process of finalising the application guidelines with the Federal Government so it can roll out the concessional loan scheme as quickly as possible."

Victorian Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh says he is glad things are finally falling into place.

"I wrote to the Commonwealth in February to highlight that there were some acute pressures in Victoria’s agriculture sectors, particularly for dairy farmers," he says.

"The autumn has proven especially tough for livestock managers and I am pleased the Commonwealth has been able to provide the concessional loans program as an avenue of support."

"I am also very pleased that the Commonwealth Government has listened to Victoria and agreed to contribute administration costs."

Like QLD, Victoria’s focus with the package is to restructure debt.

On top of the aforementioned measures, more support under the Farm Finance plan such as three new Commonwealth-funded Rural Financial Counselling Service positions will also be making its way to Victoria.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) welcomed the good news but urged the Federal and state governments to quickly finalise the administrative arrangements needed to allow farmers access to the payments.

"It has now been 11 weeks since the Federal Government announced the Farm Finance package, but not a single cent has yet been passed onto farmers in need," NFF Vice President Brent Finlay says.

"And it is critical that these funds are also now made available to farmers in all the other States and Territories," he says.

"Farmers are facing difficult conditions in areas right across Australia, and it is essential that all farmers have access to this assistance."

The loan packages will be administered by the QRAA and the Rural Finance Corporation of Victoria in QLD and VIC respectively.

The Government says Victorian farmers can start contacting the Rural Finance Corporation of Victoria from July 15 to discuss eligibility.

The starting concessional interest rate for the loans will be 4.5 per cent which will be reviewed on a six-monthly basis and may be varied to accord with prevailing economic conditions.

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