Call for cheap farmer loans if frost bites

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Peter MilneThe West Australian

The State Government is asking Canberra to allow WA farmers who have suffered consecutive years of frost and dry weather access to discounted loans normally handed out exclusively for drought relief.

WA Minister for Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan said the weekend’s rain had helped some growers, but others would struggle.

“Under the current proposal from the Federal Government, two years of drought-related financial hardship are required for access to the loan scheme,” Ms MacTiernan said. “Last year, the Federal Government made concessions to the Victorian dairy industry to allow easier access to the scheme.”

In May last year, three dairy companies retrospectively cut the farm-gate milk prices paid to farmers in NSW, South Australia and Victoria.

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Within weeks, the Federal Government announced a package of $555 million in concessional loans for affected farmers. The loans were similar to the existing drought concessional loans scheme.

Ms MacTiernan said she would be asking the Federal Government to consider the massive losses sustained by some WA growers last year because of frost as a year of financial hardship under the concessional loans scheme.

“We are currently in negotiations with the Federal Government regarding WA access to the Drought Concessional Loan Scheme and arguing to have the parameters better geared to the needs of WA farmers,” she said.

“This would mean those farmers impacted by frost last year and drought this year could access the scheme later this year.”

Ms MacTiernan said farmers suffering drought could contact the department of primary industries and regional development for technical support and also seek help from the free Rural Financial Counselling Service WA.

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