Drought loans approved for WA

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

WAFarmers has welcomed the long-awaited arrival of $20 million in concessional loans for the State's drought-stricken farmers, but warns it could be a case of too little, too late.

In a joint statement released on Tuesday, Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce and WA Minister for Agriculture and Food Ken Baston announced WA farmers could now apply for an Australian Government drought concessional loan.

To be eligible for a loan , WA farm businesses must be experiencing a one-in-20 year drought event, or a one-in-10 year drought event that has caused significant financial impact.

Applicants must submit a valid Bureau of Meteorology rainfall deficiency report as part of their Application.

Drought concessional loans will be available for debt restructuring, operating expenses and drought recovery and preparedness activities.

Mr Baston said the Rural Business Development Corporation was geared up to deliver the loans.

But WAFarmers president Dale Park said although he was pleased to see the loans finally made available, drought-stricken farmers had been let down over the time it had taken to administer them , despite best assurances from government.

"In late March this year, WAFarmers met with Mr Joyce and called for immediate action to be taken by the State Government to ensure struggling farmers could access the drought assistance package as soon as possible," he said

"But we are now six months down the track and applications for the loans have only just opened.

"Had the loans been made available sooner, those in need could have put in crops, appropriately serviced their stock or crops or substantially improved the operating conditions of their farm businesses."

Mr Joyce said the drought concessional loans were in addition to other forms of federal support available to WA farmers such as Farm Finance concessional loans, the Farm Household Allowance and rural financial counselling.

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