Grains Strategic Review delivers confidence in financial literacy and optimism about future farm profitability

RBS welcomes new board appointment

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RBS welcomes $260,000 funding boost in 2018 State Budget

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Rural Business Support (RBS) has welcomed a $260,000 funding boost to deliver rural financial counselling services announced in this week’s State Budget. Chief Executive Officer Brett Smith said it was great news for producers who were experiencing drought like conditions in many parts of South Australia.

The funding will allow RBS to extend its delivery of rural financial counselling services from three years to four, until June 2020.

“The State Government’s support for the rural financial counselling service is important to ensure producers have access to the help they need during these times,” Mr Smith said. “Throughout the state, many areas are currently under pressure due to the lack of rainfall. If we have a short spring, this pressure will only increase.

“This welcomed initiative allows us to get on and provide a crucial service to SA farmers in difficult circumstances.”

The State Budget announcement coupled with the provision of additional Federal Government funding cements the certainty of rural financial counselling services for SA producers. Rural Business Support will be increasing its team to include 13 full time equivalent rural financial counsellors and support staff to ensure the ongoing strong demand for services is met and managed well.

Mr Smith said the 2018-19 State Budget delivered many other benefits for SA producers, including a commitment to waive $1.6 million in oyster industry fees.

“The direct impact of POMS interstate has destabilised the oyster industry and many SA oyster farmers have subsequently been affected,” Mr Smith said.

“While there have been no POMS outbreaks in any SA oyster farming areas, the ban on the transfer of spat from interstate has severely affected production.

“We have been working closely with many oyster producers so this is a very significant announcement for the industry and will help to ease the pressure off these producers.”

Mr Smith said flexibility on stamp duty exemptions for transferring the family farm was also welcomed.

“This will be very useful in terms of potential succession planning and the transfer of properties between generations and for the acquisition of family farms,” he said.

“It’s another very welcome initiative for SA producers.”

Media enquiries: Brett Smith, Rural Business Support, CEO, on 08 8364 2577, 0412 630 015 or email b.smith@ruralbusinesssupport.org.au

SACWA offers a helping hand for SA rural communities

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The South Australian Country Women’s Association (SACWA) is working with Rural Business Support (RBS) to direct emergency relief – through necessitous circumstances funding – to farming families being adversely affected by drought conditions in this state.

RBS through the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) can help eligible families apply for this assistance, which can help to cover immediate expenses including utility bills and school fees. Please call 1800 836 211 or email admin@ruralbusinesssupport.org.au to talk with a rural financial counsellor and access an application form.

Dick Smith Foods and the Australian Hotels Association’s “Parma for a Farmer” have given funds to SACWA for distribution.

The SACWA  also is encouraging members of the public who are in better financial circumstances to support this work by donating to the SACWA Emergency Aid Fund which has DGR status. Donations can be made via:

  • Online at www.sacwa.org.au
  • Cheque/money order – please provide address for receipt
    Cash – SACWA State Office, Mary Walker House, 30 Dequetteville Terrace, Kent Town 5067
  • BSB 105 010
    Account 108099140
    SACWA Emergency Aid Fund

All donations of $2 or more will be issued with a receipt for taxation purposes. 100% of donations goes to those needing funding. All administration costs are met by SACWA.

 

Surge in demand for RBS help after new support measures announced

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Rural Business Support (RBS) has requested additional government funding for resourcing to ensure South Australian producers can access the support they need to capitalise on new Federal assistance measures for farming families announced this week.

On Sunday Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud announced that $5 million would be made available for “boots on the ground” funding for the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS), which is delivered by RBS in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

The invitation for RFCS providers to apply for extra funding coincided with the Federal Government’s announcements of new supplementary payments for Farm Household Allowance (FHA) recipients and the increase of the farm asset threshold from $2.6 million to $5 million.

RBS has experienced a significant surge in demand for assistance over the past month with client numbers increasing 15%. This includes 12 new clients being added to the books on Monday alone, following Sunday’s announcement by the Prime Minister.

RBS CEO Brett Smith expects a continued increase in demand for rural financial counselling services as word of the extra Federal financial assistance gathers momentum.

“This is terrific news out of Canberra for producers in SA and NT,” Mr Smith said. “The extra support measures are timely and will provide a needed financial and morale boost for local producers experiencing financial hardship.

“RBS is working hard to ensure we soon have additional resources on the ground to assist those families in need of a bit of extra FHA support to help them back on their feet.

“Whether producers are applying for FHA for the first time, are seeking to extend their existing payment into a fourth year, or are requesting the supplementary payments, our team is well positioned to help them navigate this often complex process.

“It’s also important here that producers don’t self-assess – it’s best to talk to a rural financial counsellor about their eligibility. In some cases families think they’re ineligible but they may be short changing themselves.”

Subject to funding being secured, RBS plans to set up regional support booths where producers will be able to meet with a rural financial counsellor to work through and lodge their FHA applications on the spot.

Beyond assisting producers with applications for FHA, RBS can also help farming families to develop and manage cash flow budgets, support them with preparing for meetings with bankers and explore other options to potentially build profitability.

Mr Smith said the areas of most concern in SA included the Eastern Eyre Peninsula, Mid/Upper Northern regions and the Mallee/Upper South East region towards the Victoria/NSW border. Limited pasture growth and significantly diminished fodder reserves are of concern and are having a considerable impact on livestock producer cash flows.

“While conditions are not as dire as we’re hearing about on the eastern seaboard, farmers in South Australia are still experiencing hardship due to the dry conditions and a slow start to the season,” Mr Smith said.

“The 2018 growing season rainfall has been well below average across all regions of SA barring the lower South East.

“There are concerns in all regions regarding yields and returns with expectations of lower than average finishing rainfall in the coming months. Although we’ve received welcomed rain in recent days, follow up rainfall is very much needed.”

Under the changes announced this week, households eligible for FHA – a fortnightly payment totalling around $16,000 a year to help farming families in tough times – will receive two additional lump sum payments on 1 September 2018 and 1 March 2019. Couples in a household will receive up to an additional $12,000 and single households will receive up to $7200.

It will also be easier to qualify for FHA with the increase of the net asset threshold cap from $2.6 million to $5 million, which means producers who have up to $5 million in net assets locked up in their farms will now be able to access the FHA payment. The Department for Agriculture estimates an additional 8000 producers across Australia could become eligible for FHA support as a result.

The RFCS is free, independent and confidential. Rural financial counsellors can also refer producers to wellbeing support if this is needed.

To talk to a rural financial counsellor please call 1800 836 211. If you are asked to leave a message, be assured one of our team will be in contact with you within 48 hours. If producers have previously worked with a rural financial counsellor, they are welcome to contact them directly.

Farm Debt Mediation Bill a welcomed safeguard for SA farmers

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Rural Business Support (RBS) has welcomed the State Government’s new Farm Debt Mediation Bill, helping to ensure better protection for South Australian producers experiencing severe financial difficulty.

The Farm Debt Mediation Bill 2018 has introduced legislation to require mandatory farm debt mediation to support farmers and provide them with improved protection and financial security.

RBS Chief Executive Officer Brett Smith said the legislation would help to safeguard farmers and provide a fair and transparent process for all parties.

“Ultimately we would expect to see an increase in the number of equitable resolutions of farm debt disputes as a result of South Australia having this legislation in place,” Mr Smith said.

“It gives SA producers the assurance of a formal structure for them to use if they find themselves in a situation where debt on their farm – their livelihood and home – has become unmanageable and all other avenues of negotiation with creditors have been exhausted.

“At the same time it will also provide benefits to providers as creditors are likely to have fewer rural customers defaulting on loans.”

Mr Smith said previously SA had lacked a legally enforceable bank mediation mechanism for primary producers which had, at times, proved “problematic”.

“This legislation is welcomed because it brings SA into line with Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, where we’ve seen the mandatory process work well.”

Previously SA farmers have been reliant on a “good faith” voluntary code created by the former South Australian Farmers Federation (SAFF) more than a decade ago.

“The voluntary code agreed upon by the Australian Banking Association, Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), SAFF and the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) of SA in 2007 worked reasonably well, but it relied on the good faith of all parties involved – and it hasn’t always resulted in the best outcomes for farming families,” Mr Smith said.

“RBS Rural Financial Counsellors have encountered situations where mediation initially appeared to work, but then an unexpected escalation in farm debt has seen banks become less amenable.

“The opportunity for both farmers and creditors to utilise a structured but neutral mediation process to help them reach an outcome which is amenable to both parties can only be a positive thing.”

Mr Smith also acknowledged the “substantial support” of Small Business Commissioner John Chapman in supporting the new Bill.

As an indication of how the SA legislation may benefit farmers, a report into the NSW Farm Debt Mediation Act 1994 including results from farmers, creditors, mediators and other representatives showed that 72 per cent of farmers reached a settlement with their banks after the mediation process.

Positive settlements reported by farmers included:

• 37% refinanced debt;
• 27% of lenders gave the farmer more time to pay; and
• 23% lenders paid off part of the debt.

Additionally, 60.7% of farmers felt positive after farm debt mediation.

“We hope to see the Farm Debt Mediation Bill 2018 lead to similarly positive outcomes for SA farmers,” Mr Smith said.

For more information call 1800 836 211.

Media contact:

Brett Smith, Rural Business Support, Chief Executive Officer – 0412 630 015