Farmers fear livestock will be dead before govt support is approved

Queensland farmers are being told it could be “up to six months” before government drought support could be approved.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 15, 12.15PM: TAROOM cattle farmer Tom Campbell received a call from his local Rural Finance Counselling Service this morning to say his application for an RIC loan could be approved within three weeks.

Earlier this week Mr Campbell was told it would take three months to be approved.

Rural Weekly revealed yesterday drought-stricken farmers seeking government support to help create cashflow were being turned away and told to consult their banks.

EARLIER: DESPERATE Queensland farmers seeking cash to help keep their cattle alive are being told to approach their bank for help, as government drought support loans could take up to six months to be approved.

Farmers who have approached the Rural Financial Counselling Service, which is primarily funded by the Federal Government through the Department of Agriculture, are being left hung out to dry, with financial counsellors taking weeks to reply to emails or waiting up to two months to discuss their financial situation in person to see if they could even qualify for a Regional Investment Corporation loan.

The Regional Investment Corporation offers two loans for farmers: Farm investment loans — to help farmers improve the strength, resilience and profitability of their farm business and drought loans — to help farmers prepare for, manage through or recover from drought. ​

Farmers can borrow up to $2 million over 10 years, with no repayments required for the first two years, interest only repayments for the first five years and then principal and interest for the remainder of the term.

Farmers can then refinance any remaining balance with their bank.

Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud said it was “inaccurate” to claim loan applications with the Regional Investment Corporation would take six months.

“The average processing time for the majority of applications with the RIC is three weeks and processing times are improving,” he said.

“We expect the new loan products will put extra demand on the Regional Investment Corporation and we are putting on additional staff to process applications.

“We’ve allocated additional resources to Rural Financial Counselling Service providers based on their feedback.”

“I will be asking the Rural Financial Counselling Service provider for an explanation about these assertions as they have not requested more resources.”

Taroom cattle farmer Tom Campbell recently penned a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the issue:

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing this letter to you with my deepest respect.

My name is Tom Campbell and I live at Taroom, Queensland where I breed and fatten cattle. I also have a small cattle carrying business so I get around to a few cattle producers in my district.

Following my inquiry into the RIC drought loan recently announced to feed my livestock, I am worried for myself, my mates whose cattle I cart and my fellow cattle producers that, under the terms of the offered financial support, there is no way we would be able to access funds from RIC to keep our breeders alive. They are near death now.

Mr Morrison are you aware that it would take up to three months at the earliest to get an approval even if you get the criteria right. RIC requires a second mortgage and, as most cattle producers have been in drought for seven years, we have run up debt plus some have a drought loan from QRIDA. How can they access funds to save their breeders from dying as we need the feed today not in three-four months?

It is not up to me to tell you how to put drought assistance in place, but we need to be able to access funds today or more of our cattle will die, and our situation will worsen from the parlous conditions we suffer today.

My personal situation is that I had no debt in 2012 but was forced into debt and drought under LNP John McVeigh Bovine Johne’s Disease Quarantine. My herd has spent two years on the stock route trying to keep breeders alive but have now returned home and my family are trying to keep them alive hand feeding.

Mr Morrison, I do not know if you will read this letter but hope to be able to give you some grassroots perspective on your policy as you seem to really want to help.

Thank you for your time.

Rural Weekly has approached the Regional Investment Corporation for comment.

Source: weekly times