Media Release

Let's talk rural debt

23 September 2014

A meeting of the Agricultural Finance Forum has been convened today to discuss the rural debt situation across the nation.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, and Senator for Queensland, Matthew Canavan, will meet with representatives from the banking and farm sectors to discuss unsustainable debt levels due to the extended drought, and the live animal export ban.

"I'm looking forward to hearing first-hand the problems producers are experiencing and to holding a forum where producers can speak directly and constructively to the banks and to government," Minister Joyce said.

"We need to be able to understand the scope and scale of the problem, including accessing accurate data about farm debt in different parts of the country, and to explore ways we can improve farm debt mediation."

In the past fortnight Minister Joyce and Treasurer Hockey travelled to northern New South Wales and Queensland to talk with farmers and rural communities and hear about the impacts of drought on them, their families and their businesses.

"Following this visit to drought affected communities and having met a number of farmers facing significant debt challenges, I now want to talk face-to-face with senior leaders of the banking and farm sectors, and discuss the rural debt situation," Minister Joyce said.

"I particularly want to discuss the nature and extent of rural debt, why parts of the industry and some regions are acutely feeling the pinch because of mounting debt levels and how we best move forward.

"I know rural debt is a major concern for many farmers and rural communities—particularly in northern Australia where the Labor Government's ban on live cattle exports had greatest impact.

"There is a range of government support available to farmers in need right now, including Farm Household Allowance, Farm Finance Concessional Loans and Drought Concessional Loans.

"However, this forum will provide a unique opportunity for the agricultural industry, finance leaders and the government to together develop further solutions," Minister Joyce said.

For more information, visit agriculture.gov.au/assistance or call the Farmer Assistance Hotline 13 23 16 (Monday to Friday, 8 am to 8 pm local time).