Barnaby Joyce asks banks for farm help

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has held meetings with commercial lenders to reportedly caution them against foreclosing properties of drought-stricken farmers.

Ahead of a cabinet meeting where he’s expected to call for urgent extra drought assistance, Mr Joyce has taken the plight of debt-laden farmers to meetings with major banks in recent days.

But the Nationals MP remained tight-lipped on details of what he’s requested.

The ABC says the talks centred on convincing the banks it’s not in their interests to foreclose farmers’ properties.

‘‘People understand it’s a viable industry and they want to make sure it works in the long run,’’ Senator Joyce told the ABC.

‘‘There’s certainly a viable industry there, and if we just add water we’ll get back to it.’’

As pressure mounts for extra drought assistance, the federal government announced it will fast-track a new assistance system to farmers before its scheduled July 1 start date.

Mr Joyce is also reviewing the assessment criteria for the government’s concessional loan scheme so more farmers can qualify for the farm finance package. He’s had ‘‘sympathetic’’ discussions with the states on the issue.

‘‘Ultimately they need access to finance to pay for the fodder, to pay for the fuel, to pay for wages, because they’ve got to the end of their capacity to do it themselves.’’

AAP

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