Mandatory Mediation Could Protect Farmers
A new rule requiring mandatory mediation prior to foreclosure could help farms struggling with debt. The new rule was recently introduced by the Marshall Government to State Parliament as part of the Farm Debt Mediation Bill.
This is the second time the bill has made its way to parliament in two years. Last year when it was introduced the Weatheril Government determined it to be unnecessary.
According to Tim Whetstone, Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister, “This Bill will enforce a mandatory mediation process, administered by the Small Business Commissioner of South Australia, before a creditor is able to foreclose on a farming operation. Under current rules, an SA farming operation can be forcibly foreclosed on without any form of negotiation – that leaves small family farm businesses vulnerable. ”
In New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, mediation programs similar to the one recently introduced are already mandatory. Whetstone believes the farmers in his district deserve the same protection from foreclosure. He believes farmers deserve every opportunity possible to resolve their debt problems and be given the opportunity to explain their circumstances.
Whetstone is calling on lawmakers who previously rejected last year’s bill to support the new one. He said rejecting it would be “hanging farmers out to dry. ”
This current version of the bill is supported by Primary Producers SA. Farmers in general believe the bill should pass. Whetstone called farmer “unpredictable and challenging,” noting that the nature of the business leaves farmers and their families vulnerable.
Should the bill pass this time around, farmers will be given an opportunity to defend their case and avoid immediate foreclosure of their farms.