Brokers affected by the Big Dry have welcomed the government's proposal to extend funding to drought-stricken farmers.
Malcolm Leggat, farmer and director of Mainland Finance in Gunnedah, says brokers in the area are finding the going tough.
“The last thing farmers want to do is borrowing through the crisis period,” Leggat said. “It’s hitting brokers very hard too.”
Leggat said the best thing brokers who have farmer clients living in the drought areas can do is to support their clients.
“There are a lot of suicides happening at the moment. Don’t let it get to the situation where your clients are talking to banks themselves. Act as mediators, and understand and know what’s going on.
“The last thing farmers need is banks putting pressure on them. That’s the broker’s job – to talk to the bank. You have to be 100% behind your clients.”
Agriculture Minister and Nationals deputy leader Barnaby Joyce proposed yesterday that an additional $280 million of loans to be made available for drought-stricken farmers, taking the $420m Farm Finance package approved last year to $700m.
The proposal will also make larger loans available, allowing farmers to refinance up to $2 million of debt p from the current cap of $650,000. It will also lower interest rates from 5% to less than 4.5%, and the maximum loan term will be extended to 10 years from five.
Leggat welcomed yesterday's announcement.
“It’s wonderful what the Abbot government are doing, and particularly Barnaby Joyce. It’s a huge relief for farmers. A lot of my customers are doing it tough at the moment.
Many Australians, especially those living in cities, do not understand the extent of the problem, said Leggat.
“To put it bluntly, people in regional areas and the cities are only going to notice when their meat prices skyrocket, when their bread prices go up. We produce the food bowl of Australia.”
But while farmers are grateful for the assistance package, they do not want people to feel sorry for them, he said.
“People who live in country areas are a resilient mob. We bounce back.”