$7.8m farm assistance package

24 Apr, 2013 12:50 PM
Premier Colin Barnett speaking to farmers during a recent visit Moorine Rock recently.
Premier Colin Barnett speaking to farmers during a recent visit Moorine Rock recently.

AN 11th hour bid to secure carry-on finance for troubled Wheatbelt farmers this week has failed.

The proposal was discussed with Premier Colin Barnett on Tuesday and involved WAFarmers president Dale Park, the association's policy director Trevor Lovelle, PGA president Rob Gillam and vice president Tony Seabrook.

It is believed a proposal put to Mr Barnett asking for a $100/ha loan to allow affected farmers to put in a crop this month, was rejected out of hand.

Instead Mr Barnett and Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston today announced a $7.8 million support package for WA's most vulnerable farmers.

This fell a long way short of the $100m WAFarmers was seeking from the government to underwrite its proposed finance package.

"The Government is very optimistic about the future of farming in WA, but this package recognises that there are some in our farming community that are doing it tough," Mr Barnett said.

"The issue now is that some of those farms are struggling and others are simply not viable, and so the purpose of these support grants is to do what we can to help them through a difficult and challenging time in their lives."

State Cabinet has supported a three-part package which includes:

p $5 million to provide financial support of up to $25,000 to enable eligible farm businesses to operate this season

p $1.8m towards additional social support and rural counselling services in the Wheatbelt, including $300,000 for local governments to stage community events

p 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

Mr Baston said the assistance package was drafted following consultation with farmers, farm businesses, industry groups, local government and rural lenders.

"Feedback from these groups is that the vast majority of our farming community is strong," he said.

"However, some farm businesses had been impacted by an unprecedented sequence of seasonal events, including droughts and frosts.

"This has led to exceptionally challenging financial circumstances for grain growers preparing to plant this year's crops, particularly in the Eastern Wheatbelt."

Mr Barnett said government and industry were also examining other measures to build the sustainability and profitability of farm businesses and the sector into the future, including market security, red tape reduction and crop insurance products.

Those involved in Tuesday morning's meeting were keen to see more detail on the package.

Mr Park said there wasn't a lot of detail given in the meeting as to what the programs would involve.

He said for some farmers it would mean they would only be putting in half a crop this year, while for others it meant they would have to walk off the land.

"I mean people need to be putting fertiliser on and it needs to be paid for and people need to be ready for seeding," he said.

"In a couple of weeks it will be too late.

"We have to recognise now that there are some people that are going to have to leave the land.

"It is a very harsh reality but that is what it is going to have to be."

Mr Gillam said he didn't think there was anything else the government could do.

"A rural adjustment has been going on for many years and it will continue to go on into the future," he said.

"The unfortunate thing is that some people will drop out of farming but I am sure he (Mr Barnett) will attempt to get the best deal for those people who get out of farming, but at the same time there will be some farmers who battle on because they have some degree of finance and I am sure if they are in very difficult circumstances so they will probably be able to access some support as well."

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24/04/2013 1:37:05 PM, on Farm Weekly

The PGA has a VERY big mouth for the few wheat growers it represents - a challenge to the PGA - come clean and state how many wheat growers are your members - bet you're not brave enough! Mr Barnett, you should pretty well disregard their opinion as it is not the view of the majority. I am sure that in the PGA's constitution are words like 'disagree with everything WAFF says' - because that is what seems to happen every time.
Ex farmer
24/04/2013 7:01:00 PM, on Farm Weekly

When are the PGA and WAFF going to get off there pedestals and start helping farmers instead of stabbing each other in the back. Have a hard look at yourself and do something for your members for a change, your worst than politicians.
25/04/2013 12:09:05 AM, on Farm Weekly

Indeed, the PGA and WAFF together are not the view of the majority. This was stated by WAFF in an interview on ABC WA Country Hour 15/2/13. So at Tuesday's meeting, who was the voice for the majority? Where was Muntadgin Farming Alliance for example?
drowning in debt
25/04/2013 6:41:51 AM, on Farm Weekly

governmnet always gives with one hand and takes with the other so expecting help just gave people false hope. try selling land in these areas now. yeah thanks for that. the crisis is far from being solved, land prices will keep falling, noone is buying big ticket machinery at clearing sales. only option left is to give us our CBH equity!!!! for crying out loud, what is it going to take for people to wake up. this is serious. lives, families and towns are at stake
25/04/2013 6:54:09 AM, on Farm Weekly

Unless this huge $12 billion debt is reduced significantly and soo we have a major debt crisis to unfold not dissimilar to the US subprime housing crisis. Of course the banks should have been saying 'no' years ago. At least give the farmers who are about to lose their farms their CBH equity. And for those farmers sitting below 70% equity, they too may face a 'no' from the bank next year if land prices continue falling.
25/04/2013 6:56:49 AM, on Farm Weekly

Looks like CBH will be divided amongst a lot less than 4300 farmers because this thing won't be corporatised anytime soon. CBH is devalueing because of competition but the number of farmers leaving will more than offset that implication on individual shareholder value. I still can't understand how a farmer being forced to leave the industry won't push as hard as they ahve to organise all these meetings to get their CBH equity. Its mind boggling!
beacon boy
25/04/2013 6:59:16 AM, on Farm Weekly

a lot of expectation built up by a few disaffected growers. its a shame all that energy wasnt directed at the cbh board cos they are the only ones who can realistically help this situation out.
District Average
25/04/2013 7:14:32 AM, on Farm Weekly

This is only the beginning of this mess. The firesale stage is next and that won't be pretty. CBH doesn't realise that unless farmers get their equity soon, they wont have any grain to deliver!!!!!
25/04/2013 7:45:18 AM, on Farm Weekly

Talk about City-Country divide - there'd be many in the city who would much rather give $100 million to keep farmers on the land to keep feeding them in the city than toss the millions into a Quay, a Stadium and Traffic Congestion.
25/04/2013 8:19:49 AM, on Farm Weekly

Thank god for an alternative opinion to those of the mob who think that if you are the majority you must be right.Its called the tyranny of the majority.Its the merit and quality of the arguement not the hysteria and irrationality of the mob assembled in country halls.Our democratic society allows for free association.ThePGA is exactly that in WA standing against the agrarian socialist collectivist policies often espoused-lamb acqisition,wool rps,single desk for wheat and other grains etc. Oh and also Sam,as you contemplate,would you be happy to take a $2 cheque or $ millions plus from C
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