Slow reaction to drought loan scheme

31 Oct, 2014 02:00 AM
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Don’t self-assess your eligibility.

WA farmers have been slow to apply for the Federal Government's concessional loans schemes.

Farm businesses are being reminded applications for both the farm finance and drought concessional loans schemes for this financial year are open.

The long-awaited drought aid took more than six months to be released and has been available for just over a month.

It will be open to WA farmers until June 30, 2015, or earlier if funds are fully committed.

The Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) said the WA component of the drought loan scheme had received three applications.

Seven applications have been received from WA the second and final round of the farm finance scheme.

The first round of the farm finance scheme had a small take up.

A spokesman for Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the Australian Government has made $20 million available under the Drought Concessional Loans Scheme and $25 million under the Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme for WA farmers.

Minister Joyce encourages farmers in WA experiencing financial hardship to apply for either of these loans.

"Don’t self-assess your eligibility for assistance – contact the Rural Business Development Corporation on 1800 198 231 to speak with an expert," a spokesperson said.

"In addition to concessional loans, the Australian Government is also delivering income support via the Farm Household Allowance to assist farmers and their families experiencing financial hardship as a result of drought or other reasons."

The farm finance loan scheme assists farm businesses by providing concessional loans between $50,000 and $200,000 to undertake productivity enhancement activities.

It received a low level of submissions from WA in the first round.

In August, a month after round two commenced, an increase in Farm Finance Concessional Loans from $200,000 to $400,000 was announced.

The finance initiative's aim is to assist WA farm businesses that are experiencing debt servicing difficulties, but are considered commercially viable in the longer term.

The Federal Agriculture Department said seven applications from WA for farm finance loans has been approved, compared with 59 loans approved in NSW, Queensland had 53, Victoria had 52 approved loans, the Northern Territory had 4, and South Australia had 2 approved loans.

While both aid packages are open to more eligible WA farm business', numbers of applications remain low.

The State Government administers the scheme through the Rural Business Development Corporation (RBDC), with assistance from DAFWA.

Rural Business Development Commission chair Rob Sands said it is a busy time of year, and he expects more applications will soon flow through.

"For the Drought Concessional Loans Scheme, we have had a lot of inquiry, but it does take time to pull together an application," Mr Sands said.

"For the WA grainbelt, we are into the harvest period.

"I expect farm business operators will look at these schemes more closely when harvest is complete and they know where their business stands for next season."

WAFarmers president Dale Park said he doesn't think many more people will apply for the loans.

"There is the hurdle of the maps with the drought loans,'' Mr Park said.

"I think people are looking at it, and understanding they are not eligible, and so they are not applying.

"I think people have had plenty of opportunities to apply for the finance loans, but people either don't like filling out forms or they don't meet the criteria."

More information about the schemes is available at http://www.daff.gov.au/agricultur e-food/drought/assistance/farm-fi nance/concessional-loans at www.agric.wa.gov.au/rbdc or by contacting the RBDC on (Freecall) 1800 198 231.

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