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New South Wales: bankrupt wheat farmer describes his financial decline due to the rural crisis

PETER THOMPSON: The latest sale of American wheat to China comes as our farmers walk off their properties in unprecedented numbers. Close-knit rural communities are faced with the grim prospect of many people struggling to buy food and other essentials. Already, record numbers of farmers have applied for Federal Government assistance, although that option is too late for many. Trevor Botfield has farmed wheat for 25 years near the north-western New South Wales town of Coonabarabran. This morning, Mr Botfield told Michael O'Regan that he isn't eligible for rural assistance.

TREVOR BOTFIELD: We've sold our house and the two properties, and our rural adviser tells me that I haven't got enough equity left to get their Government subsidy or whatever it is.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: So, you're in a position where you don't even have enough financial resources to actually apply for compensation?

TREVOR BOTFIELD: Well, that's what he tells me.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: What is your situation?

TREVOR BOTFIELD: Well, I'm just back to working. I've still got a wheat grader that I try and grade wheat and, you know, I'm living, but that's about as far as it goes. I haven't got a house anymore, or I haven't got any land or anything; I've sold all that and the banks have taken all that.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: How long has that process taken to unfold? When did you last own your house?

TREVOR BOTFIELD: Oh, 12 months ago.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: So, in the last 12 months your income has effectively dropped to nothing?

TREVOR BOTFIELD: That's right, yes. Well, when I say nothing, you know, I'm earning enough. I'm just working to earn money to live on, yes, but I'm not earning anything out of the land anymore.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: So you're not in any position at all to be able to pay the bank back the money that you owe?

TREVOR BOTFIELD: No way in the world.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: And they've foreclosed?

TREVOR BOTFIELD: Yes. Well, they've sold the place and they've said that they won't actively pursue the debt further. In other words, they won't put me in gaol, I don't think.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: What about friends and other farmers in your district; are they in a similar plight?

TREVOR BOTFIELD: Well, I think lots of them must be the same way as me, but, you know, it's a bit hard to get .. for them to tell you the nitty-gritty of how they are, but they're all battling and struggling - I know that.

MICHAEL O'REGAN: What will you do now?

TREVOR BOTFIELD: Oh, well, I've still got my old wheat grader. I'll just still try and carry on. I was a wheat grader before I started to buy land and stuff. I earned the money to do it through grading and work, but I'm getting a bit older now and I can't work as much, so hopefully I can just get enough to live.

PETER THOMPSON: New South Wales wheat farmer, Trevor Botfield.