Farmers aid cash 'of little help'

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Barnaby Joyce.
Camera IconBarnaby Joyce. Credit: Stefan Postles/Getty Images

Cash-strapped WA farmers will not be allowed to use money from a $50 million Federal Government financial support package to buy fodder or chemicals to help put in a crop.

They also face an uphill battle to qualify for the low-interest loans. WAFarmers president Dale Park said the long-awaited aid package appeared underwhelming and unlikely to help drought-hit producers.

The shambolic handling of the scheme continued yesterday when Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said WA would roll out the loans. The announcement caught the State Government off guard, with no formal agreement in place.

Mr Joyce then refused to discuss the eligibility criteria or the time frame for applications just weeks after stripping $10 million from WA's original $60 million package without consulting local authorities.

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WA farmers face a scramble to qualify, with applications not expected to open until next month.

The application window for the $25 million available this financial year closes in April with any unallocated money returned to the Commonwealth.

Mr Park said the time constraint and complicated application process meant millions of dollars could be lost to farmers.

"It all looks like too little, too late to be any real help, which is disappointing for (farmers) in the north-eastern Wheatbelt who might not even be eligible," he said.

The 4.5 per cent loans for between $50,000 and $200,000 will be available over five years across the farming, horticultural, pastoral, apicultural and aquaculture industries. They are limited to "productivity enhancement" investment, including machinery and breeding livestock.

Successful applicants must have a bank or lender's continuing support and will be required to take out a registered mortgage or other security interest over land or assets. The loans cannot be used to buy standard farm inputs such as fodder or chemicals, or for debt refinancing.

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