Succession planning sorted across the farmhouse table

Ben Cooper, John Howard and Tom Cooper discuss loans at the Coopers’ Peacock Creek farm.

Susanna Freymark

Over cups of hot milky tea and thick slices of homemade jam sponge, a succession plan was discussed across the farmhouse table at Peacock Creek.

Tom Cooper, 63, and his son Ben Cooper, 27, were discussing how Ben would take over the family farm.

John Howard, chief executive of the Regional Investment Corporation was at the table, sipping tea and listening.

Tom said he got a loan in 1988 in Queensland and bought a dairy farm.

“That was my start,” Tom said.

He kept the farm for three years then sold up and moved to Peacock Creek, near Bonalbo.

“I saw this place advertised in 1996. Ben had been born,” he said.

“I came down and bought it. The place was viable and cheap.

“I went to the National Bank and borrowed $250,000.”

The 120-hectare farm was one of 29 dairy farms west of the range back then, Tom said.

“Only six dairy farms are left.”

Ben now leases the farm from his father.

“I get a percentage of milk turnover,” Tom said.

“Keeps me with skin in the game.”

Tom’s other son Jack works in a goldmine in Western Australia.

Tom is fortunate he has one child who wants to carry on the farm. Keeping the farm in the family depends on it.

Ben has a five-year plan to buy the dairy business from his father.

Tom owns more than half and in the next five years Ben will buy it from him.

This is where John Howard and the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) comes in.

RIC is not a bank. It is a regulated lender that gives concessional loans to the agricultural industry on behalf of the Australian Government.

A case like Ben’s is ideally suited to a RIC loan.

Since start-up, RIC has settled 3000 loans worth $3billion to support farm businesses across Australian industries including beef, dairy, sheep, cropping and horticulture.

“Farmers have welcomed RIC loans assistance to improve cash flow, providing much-needed breathing space to farmers in financial need to restock, rebuild, to improve land management practices, and to mitigate potential future risks,” Mr Howard said.

Ben is one of those farmers.

 “RIC is so much more simplified than dealing with other government agencies,” Tom said.

Loans have helped him through many difficult times, Tom said.

“Farming isn’t just about managing animals. The money to run the farm has to be managed too – and in times when farmers are dealing with drought and flood, there is pressure on.”

 Find out more on the Regional Investment Corporation website.

• The concessional rate for RIC farm business loans is 4.52% pa. RIC loans offer a 10-year term of 5 years interest only and 5 years principal and interest repayments.

Taking a look at the Cooper’s farm. Photos: Susanna Freymark
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