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Relief at Last for Debt Distressed Farmers

Mark Patterson

Spokesperson for Primary Industries

11 December 2019

A New Zealand First bill 20 years in the making to help ensure the fair and equitable resolution of farm debt issues passed its final reading in Parliament last night.

Primary Industries Spokesperson Mark Patterson says the passage of the Farm Debt Mediation Bill, which started its life as a New Zealand First Member’s bill in 1999, is an important moment for the future of our rural communities.

“New Zealand First has always understood that a farm isn’t just a business. Oftentimes, it’s a family home and the pride of generations of farmers.

“This bill will ensure all options are explored to turn around a failing farm business, introducing a mediation step to help resolve debt issues before enforcement action is taken.

Mr Patterson says that high levels of debt are threatening many farms’ long-term viability, and that the passage of this bill could not come sooner.

“In 1999 when our legislation was first put forward, total farm debt was at $11.7 billion. Today, that number is $62.8 billion.

“Our farmers are uniquely vulnerable to the volatilities of commodity markets, biosecurity incursions and weather events, and many are having to borrow to manage that volatility.

“The consequences of these pressures on our rural communities are clear. A recent Federated Farmers survey found that the number of farmers feeling pressured by their bank grew from 11% to 16% between November 2018 to May 2019.

“The mediation step this bill provides for will require banks to work with farmers to find a way forward, and ensure they are not simply left in the lurch when the banks come calling.

“It will help farmers avoid the worst-case scenario of not being able to pass their farms down to future generations, or for those with non-viable businesses, exit with dignity,” Mr Patterson says.

Please see a video explaining the Bill from the Leader of New Zealand First, Rt Hon Winston Peters >>>


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