Support and information for farmers
Under the Farm Debt Mediation Act (the Act), farmers have the right to:
- be offered mediation before a creditor can start enforcement action under a farm mortgage
- consider an offer of mediation from their creditor and reply within 21 days
- request mediation with their creditor whether or not they are in default under a farm mortgage
- request a prohibition certificate from the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) to stop a creditor from taking enforcement action when they are in default under a farm mortgage and a creditor has refused a request to mediate or three months have passed since the request for mediation was issued.
Farmers are not obliged to take part in mediation. If a farmer does not want to take part or does not reply within 21 days to a notice from their creditor offering mediation, the creditor can request an exemption certificate from the VSBC to allow them to immediately proceed with debt recovery.
A prohibition certificate prevents a creditor from taking enforcement action.
A farmer can request a prohibition certificate from the VSBC where they are in default under a farm mortgage, they have requested mediation with their creditor and
- the creditor has refused to mediate or
- three months have passed since the farmer issued the request for mediation to the creditor and throughout that period, the farmer has attempted to mediate in good faith but no satisfactory mediation has taken place.
A creditor must not start enforcement action against a farmer if a prohibition certificate has been issued. A prohibition certificate remains in place for six months or until the day the farmer and creditor enter into mediation.
The VSBC has some discretion in the issuing of prohibition certificates. For example, we may refuse to issue a prohibition certificate if we believe the creditor’s failure to respond to a request to mediate is justified and the creditor intends to mediate within a reasonable timeframe.
Both the farmer and creditor should keep accurate records and evidence of the service of notices, as well as copies of all notices served.
In addition to responding to queries, the VSBC also provides early help to farmers in relation to farm debt mediation. This included giving farmers guidance on their rights and obligations, and information on available supports. The VSBC also appoints mediators and arranges mediation sessions.
Rural Financial Counselling Service
The Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) is a free and independent service that can provide a rural financial counsellor to:
- help a farmer prepare for mediation
- assist them on the day
- help them with any actions that need to be undertaken after mediation.
Help includes providing wellbeing, emotional and decision-making support, financial analysis and scenarios, and guidance on options for resolving the matter.
The VSBC encourages all farmers taking part in farm debt mediation to contact their local RFCS for support in this process, or their solicitor, accountant or another suitably qualified professional.
Rural financial counsellors can also help farmers (including primary producers and small, related rural businesses) who are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing, financial difficulty though may not need mediation under the Act. They can help farmers to understand their financial position and the viability of their enterprise. They can also help farmers to develop and implement plans to improve their financial situation.
As part of their service, rural financial counsellors can also help farmers to:
- identify their financial and business options, and develop cash flow budgets and forecasts
- negotiate with their lenders
- access other professional services, and industry and government assistance and grants.
Farmers can find their local RFCS by calling 1300 771 741 or visiting the Agriculture Victoria RFCS web page.
For more information:
- see our Farm debt mediation fact sheet, process, FAQs and information on important changes to the Farm Debt Mediation Act 2011
- see our Guide to mediation
- contact us.