WAIT times of a year or more to process applications and make payments to farmers under the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) drought loan scheme are totally unacceptable, according to Grain Producers Australia (GPA) chairman Andrew Weidemann.
Mr Weidemann expressed frustration and disappointment at the ongoing failure of the RIC drought loan scheme to meet grower expectations on delivery and roll out.
“The federal government Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) has failed to deliver for farmers,” he said.
“In my time of watching government-led programs this is the worst example of incompetence – a farmer waiting more than 674 days, with average response times of nearly a year.”
Mr Weidemann said the RIC scheme was government backed and the failures in the RIC rollout were not mirrored in other schemes, like the rapid rollout of COVID-19 related supports for businesses and communities.
“GPA members have been calling with their concerns for the time taken for their applications to be processed and various levels of bureaucracy. GPA has been in contact with RIC and the Department and has been assured that timelines are improving,” he said.
“GPA has received assurances that the processing times are getting better with increased resourcing, but recent documentation received by members shows this is not happening.”
Mr Weidemann said the GPA remained committed to the provision of support and essential services for farmers, however, the current RIC system was betraying the expectations of farmers and the wider agricultural community.
“The failures in RIC has stretched the mental health of the people it was set up to help,” he said.
Mr Weidemann said the GPA recommended that an advisory committee be implemented to fast track changes to the administration and processing times of the scheme, to support the necessary changes needed to meet grower expectations and to restore confidence that the scheme can ultimately achieve what it was set up to achieve.