Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme

AGS worked with the Department of Agriculture this year on a scheme to assist struggling farming businesses.

Under the Farm Finance Concessional Loans Scheme, the Commonwealth is lending a total of $420 million to the States and the Northern Territory to enable them to provide loans to farming businesses experiencing financial difficulties. The loans are to be used for productivity enhancement or to restructure debt, and are designed to build the ongoing financial resilience of farming businesses.

AGS was engaged as the legal adviser to the project. The project team was led by John Scala (Chief Counsel Commercial), and included Guy Aitken (Chief General Counsel), Clare Derix (Senior Executive Lawyer), Mark Molloy (Senior General Counsel), Stella Chu (Senior Lawyer), Kurt Richards (Senior Lawyer) and Steffen Etherton (Counsel).

During the first 4 months, Clare Derix and Kurt Richards were seconded to the Department to help establish the Scheme. AGS provided constitutional advice on the Scheme's implementation, as well as strategic commercial advice on the design and structure of the Scheme in each jurisdiction. Our lawyers drafted and negotiated a complex set of loan agreements and service level agreements with each of the States and the Northern Territory. We also assisted with the statutory interpretation, compliance, contracting, procurement and risk issues associated with each transaction.

This project raised a number of challenging and complex issues, and provided valuable insight into the provision of legal advice within a fast-paced and evolving political environment.

Within 6 months of AGS's appointment as legal adviser, Farm Finance loan agreements and service level agreements were finalised and executed with each State and the Northern Territory.

All States and the Northern Territory are currently accepting and processing applications for Farm Finance Concessional Loans. We continue to assist the Department with contract management issues in relation to the Scheme.

This is an extract from the 2013–14 AGS annual report