AgForce outlines rural debt measures ahead of Canberra forum

Beef Central, 21/09/2014

AgForce Queensland has outlined the key response measures it will table tomorrow in Canberra at Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce’s, Agricultural Finance Forum.

The roundtable, designed to bring together industry leaders, lenders and government, will attempt to develop a shared understanding of the extent and drivers behind high rural debt and challenged serviceability and provide some direction as to how these issues can be addressed.

AgForce chief executive officer, Charles Burke, who will attend tomorrow’s discussion, said the organisation would table eight immediate support response measures sought in addition to longer term policy and industry frameworks to underpin a resilient rural sector.

“The response measures we will outline are aimed at developing a shared understanding of the issues between each of the stakeholders, and providing expert assistance to producers in preferably avoiding or alternatively addressing non-performing debt within a process agreed with rural lenders,” Mr Burke said.

“We will also seek to enable those faced with an exit from industry to do so with dignity as well as supporting challenged businesses and individuals during any transition process.”

Specifically, these measures include:

  • Support a national government inquiry (or collaborative R&D project) to investigate agricultural debt performance and serviceability as well as ongoing industry viability and profitability, down to a region by sector level. In conjunction with lending institutions and government, the investigation could include alternative capital and financing packages. The results should be reviewed on a regular basis, as occurred for the QRAA Debt surveys.
  • Support the urgent additional resourcing of the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) to provide further experienced financial counsellors in Queensland, located in the drought and non-performing debt-affected regions.
  • Investigate government-supported options for independent, professional business assessment and debt-mediation services to; provide viability assessments of farm businesses; support viable businesses towards higher-order business skills development; develop proactive and agreed plans with lenders for challenged businesses to achieve a reduced risk profile; and provide expert advocacy services in mediation for non-viable businesses to exit with maximum capital and dignity.
  • Establish a national voluntary debt mediation process (similar to the Queensland Farm Finance Strategy) with agreed guidelines that includes the involvement of skilled mediators acting for landholders and transparent protection of the financial interests of the landholder.
  • As an end point to the debt mediation process, with lenders and government collaboratively develop exit and adjustment packages including; mentoring by successfully transitioned ex-producers; retraining programs (with Recognition of Prior Learning); and relocation assistance.
  • In conjunction with lenders, undertake a review of current agricultural lending policies and practices, including proactive management of distressed agricultural loans, potentially facilitated through the National Farmers Federation hosted Farm Finance Forum. This review would inform the national voluntary debt mediation process.
  • Improved structuring and access to current Commonwealth assistance measures including; concessional refinancing under the Farm Finance package; income assistance under the Farm Household Allowance Program; and support provided through the Concessional Drought Loan Scheme.
  • Further support for on-property mental health outreach officers and mobile services by local providers where any gaps exist, potentially facilitated by the Federal Drought Coordinators.

“AgForce has long advocated for policies which facilitate a prosperous rural sector and we look forward to outlining these and our sought immediate measures tomorrow,” Mr Burke said.

“It is critical that each of the stakeholders work collaboratively in the long term to ensure the ongoing health of our industry.”


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  1. Ronald Rowlands, 22/09/2014

    3 Step Solution to Rural Debt
    1. Government to wipe all Rural Debt
    2.Government to establish a National Bank of Public Credit to Replace the Commonwealth Bank A: .That was destroyed by Liberal Coalition. B: Was not allowed to operate as established to. A National Bank of Public Credit ( As per Alexander Hamilton guide lines) To fund infrastructure & food Production with low interest rates. First part of Establishing a National Bank of Public Credit. is introduction of Glass Steagall Bank Separation.
    3. Parity Pricing -keeps a strong food production sector – FD Roosevelt introduced it and it was very successful, so successful the Banks had it removed as there were no farmers with Rural Debt. and the scaremongering by the Banks that it would cause large increase in price of food is incorrect – eventually reduces prices when middle men and large retail monopolies are stopped adding price gouging margins for them selves. The Government has to start looking after Farmers not just Banks.

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