QUEENSLAND's new mandatory farm debt mediation program has seen 33 cases initiated in the first six months of the program’s operation.
The cases represent a broad cross section of farming industries and 18 local government areas.
Administered by the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA), the program aims to protect the interests of both primary producers and their lenders, by requiring them to undergo a formal, impartial mediation process to resolve disputes before foreclosure can take place.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the mandatory scheme had captured a broader range of lenders with almost a third of the cases involving specialist equipment finance providers.
“The previous voluntary scheme captured only 11 signatory banks, leaving smaller, niche lenders like equipment finance providers to foreclose or be forced to write off debt,” he said.
“They are now captured in the scheme, preventing these farm debts from falling through the cracks and providing both parties with the same pathway to a fair and equitable resolution.”
QRIDA farm business debt Mediation manager John Simpson said the reaction to the scheme has been positive, with both producers and mortgagees participating in the process in good faith.
“Parties on both sides have been cooperating extremely well with each other, and with the process established by the new legislation,” Mr Simpson said.
“Reaching that stage and undergoing mediation can be stressful, but it’s been great to see producers preparing well and engaging professional advisors, and to see banks genuinely wanting to help their customers and move past these disputes.”
In January 2018, Farm Business Debt Mediation was joined by the Farm Debt Restructure Office which provides farmers in financial distress with a no-cost, no-obligation analysis of their operations and options.
Farmers currently experiencing financial difficulties should speak to their bank or financial institution as early as possible and seek advice from their financial advisor or the Rural Financial Counselling Service.
CLICK HERE for more information of the Farm Business Debt Mediation program, or telephone 1800 623 946.