Drought loan criteria too tough to answer

26 Jun, 2015 02:00 AM
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Yilgarn farmers Tony Dal Busco (left) and Ron Burro are happy with the rain that fell in their area last week, but not so impressed with the process required to qualify for a drought loan.
I know someone who applied and it took them over five months to finish the application.
Yilgarn farmers Tony Dal Busco (left) and Ron Burro are happy with the rain that fell in their area last week, but not so impressed with the process required to qualify for a drought loan.

GOVERNMENT concessional loans schemes for WA are due to close this month.

As of May 31, 21 loan applications were submitted in WA for the Drought Concessional Loans Scheme, according to the Federal Agriculture Department.

Three farm businesses were approved loans to a total value of $1.2 million.

The department reported 91 loan applications were submitted for the Farm Finance Concessional Loans in WA and 35 farm businesses were approved loans to a value of $10.1m.

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook said tough criteria has made it hard for WA farmers to qualify for the loans.

"The bar was set extremely high," Mr Seabrook said.

"It was extremely difficult for producers to actually qualify."

In the high-drought level areas on Australia's east coast, more than 200 loans were received with about 80-100 approved.

After a long dry-spell, Yilgarn farmer Tony Dal Busco breathed a sigh of relief after he received 30mm of rain over a five-day period last week, the first rain since April.

"We were starting to stare down the barrel because we had no rain until last week," he said.

"We had a good start, like everyone else, we all had high hopes for the year. Last year we also had a good start, but we limped through the season.

"We will have to see how this year pans out, it's in the hands of the Gods now, but it was a great rain and will give us a chance.

"There have been people who have done it hard for a while now, and for those three people in WA who were approved the drought loan, it will help them out."

Mr Dal Busco said while he was happy for those who did get approved, he said many farmers still found it hard to fit the criteria and complete the process.

"I know someone who applied and it took them over five months to finish the application," he said.

"They need to make the process easier and simplify the criteria where people can understand the questions.

"The questions should have been, 'how much rain did you have over your growing periods?', 'how much did you make for the year?' - these things were never taken into account, you had to prove the district was in drought.

"A drought is a drought, it has to be a simpler process than that."

Mr Dal Busco said he would like to see a future where farmers don't have to go to government for hand outs.

"We need the tools for that, yes we need to deal with the problem, but we need the tools to recover and get on the front foot," he said.

"People are not scared to do new things, but government needs to give us some tools to help set up for self management. I am a big believer in trying to be proactive."

Mr Seabrook agreed that industry can't depend on hand-outs, but said government could cut the red tape to get rid of unnecessary costs and help industry in other ways.

"We have people who have been there for three or four generations, up against seven or more years of little or no rainfall whatsoever, to lose them, because they don't have enough money to restock would be a great loss to the industry," Mr Seabrook said.

"The industry has to realise it can't be dependent on funding from government every time something goes wrong."

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