From devastating fires to damaging hailstorms and a protracted drought, the recent weather conditions are challenging many farmers from various agricultural industries across the state. While many farmers are resilient, staying on top of loan repayments and other bills, more are becoming victims of circumstances. And without crops to harvest or stock to care for, many contractors are also laying off staff to try to stay afloat which has a significant knock-on effect for these workers too. However, there is help available from Rural Financial Counselling Service and Legal Aid Queensland for those in the agriculture sector who are struggling during this difficult period.
Rural financial counsellors can help develop and implement plans to improve farmers’ financial situations and refer clients to Legal Aid Queensland if legal advice, negotiations and farm debt mediations are required. The Rural Financial Counselling Service and Legal Aid Queensland’s services are free with no asset or income testing needed for primary producers and rural-based businesses experiencing financial difficulties with their financier. Banks and financiers have financial hardship provisions and are expected to work with people to try to resolve their financial problems. For example, lenders must offer farm debt mediation before taking any enforcement action against a borrower even if it just relates to farming equipment. Farmers who find themselves in this position are encouraged to contact their local rural financial counsellor or Legal Aid Queensland as soon as there are any serious financial problems. There may be other options available to consider, so getting advice early will make it easier to keep all options open.
Concerningly, at a farm level, margins continue to be squeezed and profitability is increasingly being challenged with more farm businesses expected to face financial instability. Which is why continued, and increased funding of the Rural Financial Counselling Service and Legal Aid Queensland is particularly important. So, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation is calling on the state government to extend its financial support for these services and provide improved access to financial and legal advice for farmers and primary producers across the state.