Farmers struggling to fully finance the cost of planting crops have been offered new hope under a scheme endorsed by State Cabinet this week.
Agriculture Minister Ernie Bridge said that while the State Government had previously allocated considerable carry-on funds to assist farmers under the Rural Adjustment Scheme and associated programs, a substantial portion had been unused.
He said considerable changes had been made to streamline the operations of RAFCOR in administering the funds, but it was recognised that some needy farmers were still having trouble getting assistance.
"This has been particularly apparent with a small group of borderline farmers who have indicated they want to carry on, but are finding it extremely difficult to finance the cost of planting a `normal' size crop," Mr Bridge said.
"If we ignore their plight, we will virtually ensure they fail, whereas in many cases they could come through the season quite well if they succeed in harvesting a good crop."
Mr Bridge said very strict controls would be placed on the funds, which could only be used for fertiliser, chemicals, fuel for on-farm use, seed, and repairs and maintenance to essential farm machinery.
The funds would be available as a special loan facility of up to $20,000, secured against the expected crop return.
Applicants would have to demonstrate that the cropping program as intended could not be completed without additional `carry-on' finance, and that the additional cropping beyond any already funded by other rural financiers would improve the profitability of the farm business.
They would also have to agree to be placed under strict farm management and financial control of a professional farm management consultant.
Each application would be evaluated within the Western Australian Farmers' Federation/Australian Bankers' Association debt mediation scheme, which would then make a recommendation to RAFCOR.
Mr Bridge said that by allowing a realistic crop to be planted this season, farmers would be in a better position to determine their future options.
Further information on the debt mediation scheme is available from Dennis Fyfe, secretary, Rural Land Sales Liaison Committee at RAFCOR, 32 St George's Tce, Perth 6000.