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‘Green doesn’t bring cash’: farmers call for money to plant crops

“We’ve had a little bit of rain so things are green but green does not bring cash. As far as our cropping enterprise goes, we won’t have cash until after harvest in November.”

Ms Blackburn said farmers needed to prepare their ground for planting right now, and her potential for a good harvest was “dropping by the day” because she did not have the funds to do it.

Tracy Blackburn with her partner, Terry Cornish, and son on their farm near Dubbo.

Tracy Blackburn with her partner, Terry Cornish, and son on their farm near Dubbo. Credit:Janie Barrett

Livestock farmers also need funds to restock herds, though the timing is more flexible.

Other stimulus measures to support small businesses, as well as the existing government-backed loans to help farmers through drought, require co-funding from a commercial loan.

However, Ms Blackburn said many farmers were in debt and unable to get a loan because they did not have strong financial results in the past two or three years due to drought. While some farmers could borrow against their land, many were already mortgaged to the hilt or were leasehold farmers.

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The National Farmers Federation declined to comment but the Herald has spoken to several farmers in the same situation.

Malcolm Lloyd Jones, who has a small family farm with wheat and livestock between Junee and Cootamundra, has had three crop failures in a row due to drought and is already “stretched to the limit” in debt to the bank. He also owes $80,000 to a chemical and fertiliser supplier.

Mr Lloyd Jones agreed farmers need a cash injection to plant crops, saying they “need a big year to recover from the drought”. He warned if Australia fails to act it could face a crisis in national food security.

“These are very difficult times and I think the whole thing that’s going on at the moment with the coronavirus and people panicking to buy essentials is that we’re food producers and imagine there was no food,” Mr Lloyd Jones said.

“For our long-term security, agriculture has just got to be supported a bit more by the government. That’s the bottom line.”

A spokesperson for the Regional Investment Corporation said the organisation had approved 274 drought loans for farmers valued at $257 million so far this financial year, as of the end of February.

However, these loans also rely on the farmer being able to fund at least half the debt through a commercial loan.

In the first quarter, a Rabobank survey of farmers showed renewed optimism for 2020 following strong widespread rainfall after years of drought and the summer’s bushfires.

Less than half thought the agricultural economy would improve over the year, but this was up significantly from less than 20 per cent in December.

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