Debt and drought support were front-of-mind issues raised by an estimated 150 beef producers attending a rural summit in Winton, western Queensland, as Beef Central’s daily news alert was issued this afternoon.
Agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, together with Katter Australia Party’s Bob Katter and his son, Robbie, the state member for Mt Isa, were in Winton to hear from graziers who are struggling with debt about the impact it has had on their businesses, families and communities.
Mr Joyce said he was attending the Rural Debt Crisis Summit to better understand the issues on the ground and to explain current Australian Government assistance measures.
“Agriculture is a unique industry that underpins all Australians’ way of life. Farmers and their families can control many things – but not the weather,” he said.
“While we can’t force the rain to fall we can provide access to low interest loans so that our farmers and graziers can better manage their finances and businesses during drought – and as they recover.
“This government has been listening to those farmers struggling with debt and to those who are drought-affected and we’re delivering. Yesterday I announced targeted government assistance for drought-affected farmers in Queensland and NSW through the $100 million Drought Recovery Concessional Loans Scheme.”
Under the scheme farm businesses will be able to apply for a loan up to $1 million over 10 years at a variable concessional interest rate initially set at 3.21pc.
“Since February the Australian Government has rolled out a range of support measures under a $320 million Drought Support Package, including business support through the Drought Concessional Loans, which includes $100m for Queensland, and an improved income support payment – the Farm Household Allowance,” Mr Joyce said.
“And we have delivered the Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme to all states and the Northern Territory, with another $210 million in funding available this financial year.
So far more than 280 farm businesses across Queensland and NSW had had loans approved under the government’s Farm Finance and Drought Concessional Loans schemes, he told the Winton audience.
“We are also working with the banks, farmers and state governments to develop a nationally consistent approach to farm debt mediation,” Minister Joyce said.
Farm Debt Mediation offers a formal structure for a farmer and their bank to negotiate issues around farm debt.
“Our current support measures are making a difference to how our farmers manage debt during drought,” he said.
“This government remains committed to reinvigorating our agricultural industries and I welcome this opportunity for producers and banking institutions to come together with government representatives so we can see what else could be done.”