The Federal Government is asking the general public to express their views on the effectiveness of subsidised farming loans and their future beyond 2026.
Concessional loans to farm businesses and other drought-affected small businesses began in July 2018 under the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) and have provided more than $3.198 billion in loans to over 2960 agricultural-related businesses.
The RIC’s loan funding is set to end on 30 June, 2026, with up to $300 million per financial year available until then.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt initiated a review of the program and appointed scientist and senior policy adviser Wendy Craik to spearhead it.
The review is looking at the scope of the RIC’s activities after 30 June, 2026, and the appropriate governance arrangements for the RIC after that date.
As part of the review process, the public is being asked to have their say about the scheme.
Any member of the public can put forward their views and suggestions on the farming loans.
Agriculture Department Assistant Secretary Andrew O’Sullivan said the public consultation also provided an opportunity for farmers and agribusiness owners to put their views across on the RIC review and the loans it provided.
“The RIC provides concessional loans to farm businesses in financial need, and it’s important that the system is working to the highest possible standards for our farmers,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“Through the RIC, the Australian Government has more than $4 billion available for concessional loans to farm and farm-related small businesses.
“Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt appointed Dr Wendy Craik AM to review the RIC Act, which will consider the scope of the RIC’s activities after 30 June, 2026, and how the RIC should be governed after that date.
“This is the chance for farmers, business owners and other stakeholders to provide feedback on the RIC’s products and effectiveness, and what the RIC’s functions and governance arrangements should be into the future.”
The public consultation will be open for five weeks until 22 December and can be accessed by visiting the review online.
Dr Craik’s report will be delivered to the Minister on or before 1 July, 2024, and will be made publicly available after being provided to the Government.
According to the review’s discussion paper open for consultation, the key policy objectives of the RIC are to provide support in the form of concessional loans to “improve the long-term strength, resilience and profitability of eligible businesses, and achieve national consistency in the availability of loans and treatment of applicant farm businesses”.
Concessional loans in their current form have been a feature of the Australian Government’s agricultural policy for almost a decade.
“Initially, the states and territories delivered a range of concessional loan programs on behalf of the Commonwealth,” it states.
“However, in 2018 the Australian Government established the RIC to address inconsistencies within the state and territory delivery model, including variations in the availability of loan programs commencing or in some cases being delivered at all …
“This review presents an opportunity to consider the effectiveness of the RIC as a mechanism to deliver nationally consistent concessional loans and improve its efficiency and efficacy with reference to other Commonwealth Specialist Investment Vehicles (SIVs).
“The RIC is one of a number of Commonwealth SIVs which make recurring investments for a policy and financial outcome.”
Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.