Farmers to spell out crisis to Libs

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

The leaders of the Muntadgin Farming Alliance will meet about a dozen Liberal backbenchers in Perth over the next two days to spell out the deepening financial crisis in WA agriculture.

Alliance spokesman Jeff Hooper said Wheatbelt communities were concerned that the State Government and banks were not acknowledging the true extent of the problem.

Mr Hooper said banks were taking a much harder line, putting farmers into asset management, forcing them to sign deeds of forbearance and appointing receivers.

"I personally know of 30 people under asset management, we have people paying 19 per cent interest, there are four big farmers in the Yilgarn Shire already in receivership and peak debt is escalating all the time," he said.

It is understood at least one second-tier lender is preparing to exit the industry in WA and has put eight farms in the South West into receivership.

The Department of Agriculture and Food WA is holding a crisis meeting of industry groups, WAFarmers, banks, financial counsellors and health workers next week to discuss the Wheatbelt.

DAFWA director general Rob Delane described it as a "triage session" to see what more could be done to ease the pain in some of the hardest-hit areas.

Mr Delane rejected claims by Yilgarn shire president Romolo Patroni that DAFWA had withdrawn resources and effectively given up on parts of the north-east and eastern Wheatbelt.

He said the department had increased staff at Merredin, based key cropping research projects in the town and boosted weather station coverage to help farmers make decisions on rainfall and frost.

Mr Hooper said the alliance - which organised one of the biggest farm crisis meetings in WA's history in April - continued to support legislation introduced in Federal Parliament by maverick independent MP Bob Katter to amend the powers of the Reserve Bank to create a Commonwealth-backed reconstruction and development bank.

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