An extra $2 billion will be pumped into the Regional Investment Corporation to expand its drought loans and start a new loan scheme to attract young farmers into agriculture.
The news has been welcomed by NSW Farmers president James Jackson, who said the funding would offer a leg-up after years of drought and tough conditions.
“The additional operating funding will hopefully mean that processing and approval times will be significantly reduced from the average of 113 business days reported in the recent independent audit of the RIC,” he said.
“We recognise that these are substantial loans and there needs to be rigour.
“However, the Regional Investment Corporation needs to improve its processes, including the establishment of standard operating procedures with all banks. Existing lenders are a critical part of the drought loans approval process.”
Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the additional funding doubled the total farm and small business loan funds to $4 billion to meet demand.
“This funding is available this financial year to ensure support is provided where it is most needed and with the best possible impact,” Senator Cormann said.
“Parts of Australia have had good rainfall and the RIC’s drought loans can be used for recovery activities such as replanting and restocking.”
The package also included the launch of the AgriStarter loan, almost two years after it was first announced.
Seventy-five million dollars will be available under the loan scheme, which will become available from January 1.
“This loan will provide an invaluable opportunity to attract and retain young farmers to agriculture and drive innovation, growth and profitability,” Mr Jackson said.
New loan terms will apply for loan applications made after September 30.
The current two-year repayment free period will not apply for new loan applications made after this date.
For applications received after September 30, a five-year interest-only period will apply, followed by principal and interest for the remainder of the 10-year term.
“I understand that parts of Australia are still experiencing drought and it will also take a number of years to recover,” Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said.
“I encourage farmers and small businesses to get their application in before the end of September if they want to receive the benefit of the two-year interest free period.”
The interest rates for Farm and Small Business Loans will drop to 1.92 per cent effective from August 1.
Businesses can get more information about RIC loans by visiting the RIC website or calling 1800 875 675.