CANBERRA, AAP – Farmers will be helped to buy their first property under a $75 million pilot scheme proposed by the Coalition aimed at encouraging more people into agriculture.
The election promise would see the government guarantee 40 per cent of an eligible new farmer’s commercial loan up to a maximum value of one million dollars.
Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia David Littleproud announced the scheme during a debate with Labor’s agriculture spokeswoman Julie Collins at the National Press Club in Canberra
Faced with soaring land prices Mr Littleproud said the scheme will give farmers a helping hand to get their loans over the line, but insisted the money had to be repaid.
“This isn’t a subsidy,” Mr Littleproud told the press club.
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“What I don’t want to see is big corporates and foreign companies coming in and taking out the opportunity for succession to take place, where the son or daughter wants to have that go, to get a go,” Mr Littleproud said during the debate.
He said the future farmer guarantee scheme will help experienced farmers access capital, which he described as the biggest barrier to establishing their own farm business.
“Existing landholders are ageing – the average broadacre farmer is 62 years old, with only 10 per cent aged under 47,” Minister Littleproud said.
“Rising land values and the typical 40 to 60 per cent equity deposit required by commercial banks without this government guarantee mean that getting access to a bank loan to start a viable business is very difficult.
“Government sharing the risk means that the bank can offer better terms to suitable applicants – lower interest rates and lower equity requirements.”
Those expected to benefit from the scheme include aspiring farmers seeking to buy or develop a farm business in which they hold the controlling interest as well as those looking to enter into lease or share farming arrangements.
The scheme will require applicants to have at least three years on-farm experience, a minimum deposit and be a sound lending prospect, with the farmer still required to pay back the loan.
Mr Littleproud said the 18-month pilot scheme would begin in January 2023 and be administered by the Regional Investment Commission.
Ms Collins said Labor would need to review the details of the scheme before deciding on whether it would be adopted, but agreed family farmers needed to be supported.