Drought loan criteria eased

The West Australian

WA farmers can now apply for loans for debt restructuring as well as productivity enhancement activities under the Farm Finance concessional loans scheme.

Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said expanding the Farm Finance concessional loans to include debt restructuring introduced the sort of flexibility that farmers had been calling for and will provide another option for WA farming businesses experiencing drought conditions.

"We listened to farmers across WA about what they need to help them through, and that's why we worked with the WA Government to expand the loan conditions for the $25 million that is available under this second round of Farm Finance loans," he said.

"The loans can now also be used for debt restructuring, in addition to productivity enhancement, or a combination of these two purposes - helping farm businesses in the short term to improve their financial capabilities and profitability into the future."

Mr Joyce said the total loan amount available had also increased to $1 million, with the productivity enhancement activity component remaining between $50,000 and $400,000.

"Farm finance loans help farm businesses that are experiencing debt-servicing difficulties but are considered viable in the longer term, giving farmers breathing space while managing debt," Mr Joyce said.

"I urge all farmers not to self-assess but to talk to the experts about their options and eligibility - there are a range of State and Federal programs available to assist farmers doing it tough now."

WA Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston said he was aware some businesses in the eastern Wheatbelt were not able to apply for the Drought Concessional Loans Scheme as they did not farm within Bureau of Meteorology rainfall deficiency areas.

"The broadening of the FFCLS will enable those not farming in a BoM rainfall deficiency area to apply for a concessional interest rate loan with a debt restructuring component," he said.

Farm businesses must be in broadacre, pastoral, horticulture, dairy, intensive agriculture or aquaculture and be based in WA to apply for the FFCLS.

A total of $25 million is available under the second and final round of the FFCLS.

Loans are interest-only at the concessional rate, with principal repayment at the end of the loan term. Applications close on April 30.

For more information on eligibility criteria and loans terms, visit the Rural Business Development Corporation website at www.agric.wa.gov.au/rbdc or call the Freecall information line on 1800 198 231.

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