HEADING WEST: QRIDA CEO Cameron MacMillan and chairman Wayne Carlson in Roma during a regional visit.
HEADING WEST: QRIDA CEO Cameron MacMillan and chairman Wayne Carlson in Roma during a regional visit. Molly Hancock

Board members touch base

MEMBERS of the Queensland Rural and Industry Development board visited Roma recently to grasp a better understand- ing about how rural industries are faring and to meet with clients and community members.

Chairman Wayne Carlson and CEO Cameron MacMillan said it was important to have a commercial board which understood agriculture and lending.

"It is important that we get them out into the region twice a year and that is what this visit is all about,” Mr Carlson said.

"We have been visiting clients, we went to the Roma saleyards to get an under- standing of what the market is doing and then we met with allies, banks and lawyers to engage with them because they are a fantastic source.”

QRIDA provides a range of low-interest loans and grants which seek to give primary producers a hand up whether it's helping young people get a start buying their first block, expanding or improving an existing operation to boost productivity or helping build resilience and preparedness in times of drought.

In the current financial year QRIDA has approved 153 applications for $22million of aid to producers in the Maranoa and southwest region.

"This has included 42 productivity loan approvals worth $18 million and just over 100 farm management grant approvals worth $190,000 which provide a rebate to farming families on the costs of professional succession planning advice,” Mr Carlson said.

QRIDA has a team based in Roma, including regional area manager Tony Koch, loan assessor Mieke Elder and farm debt restructure officer Daniel Elder.

"We only have about 90 staff all together so to have three in Roma is pretty good.

"Our ambition is to put more people here to service the rural and regional communities,” Mr MacMillan said.

Not only does QRIDA strive to assist the agricultural business but also help inject fresh and enthusiastic farmers into the industry.

"The farming community is getting older and the average age of a farmer these days is around 59 and an average age of an applicant into our system is about 37.

"If we can get fresh blood and ideas and diversity of thought and technologies, that will equip agriculture for the challenges ahead,” Mr MacMillan said.

"It is a challenging industry and we need young people in it who learn off the old timers and then adapt for the future.

"They help communities like Roma because they keep families and children in schools and that creates a domino effect,” Mr Carlson said.

QRIDA also funds technology, fencing and watering projects through its sustain- ability loan opportunities.