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More farmers in northern Victoria eligible to receive interim federal drought support.



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AFFA03/160WT - 9 June 2003

More farmers in northern Victoria eligible to receive interim Federal drought support

The Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss, announced today that he had referred an Exceptional Circumstances (EC) drought application for more than 2,200 farmers in northern Victoria to the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) for detailed consideration.

As a result, more than 200 drought-affected farmers in the Moira region of the Northern Victoria EC application area can now apply to Centrelink for interim Federal income support and interest rate relief, Mr Truss said.

The area also includes 2,400 dairy operators already covered by the Goulburn Irrigation System EC announcement on 6 February 2003, and another 2,000 farmers who have been eligible since 9 December 2002 for interim income assistance. Importantly, in line with an announcement on Friday, these 2,000 farmers will continue to receive Commonwealth support until the assessment of the northern Victorian application is complete.

Mr Truss said he is satisfied a prima facie case has been established for an application from the Victorian Government for drought EC assistance for northern Victoria.

"Today's prima facie decision means farmers in the Moira region can now apply to Centrelink for six months' interim income support, and two years' interest rate relief on new and additional loans of up to $100,000," he said.

"Many other farmers in the prima facie area are already receiving interim drought assistance under the terms of the Commonwealth's 9 December interim assistance package."

Specifically, the northern Victoria prima facie covers dairy producers in Moira, mixed irrigated and perennial horticulture producers in the Shepparton, Central Goulburn, Rochester-Campaspe and Pyramid-Boort irrigation districts.

It also covers the majority of dryland, mixed farmers in Greater Shepparton, Campaspe and Moira. (A full description of the area, including boundary details, is attached)

Mr Truss said northern Victorian producers have been hard-hit by a combination of low rainfall since 2001, and record low irrigation supplies.

"This has affected the production of irrigated perennial horticulture crops, including stone fruit and other tree crops, and has forced livestock producers to reduce stock numbers and buy costly feed to sustain their stock," he said.

"A full EC declaration would mean eligible farmers in the region would receive fortnightly household assistance from Centrelink for two years, and interest rate subsidies worth as much as $100,000.

"In these difficult times, I urge farmers in northern Victoria to visit their local Centrelink office, or call Centrelink's National Drought Hotline on 13 23 16 as soon as possible to see if they are eligible for assistance."

Northern Victoria EC application area

● Dryland cropping and grazing properties in the Campaspe area

except those properties covered in the EC-declared area of the Eastern Mallee (with boundaries to the north of Echuca to Gunbower then south and east via Mitiamo to Echuca)

● Dryland cropping and grazing properties in Greater Shepparton and

Moira

● Irrigated dairy properties in Moira Shire supplied by the Murray

Irrigation System

● Irrigated cropping, grazing and perennial horticultural properties

supplied by Goulburn, Campaspe and Loddon Irrigation Systems*. These include the Shepparton, Central Goulburn, Rochester-Campaspe and Pyramid-Boort Irrigation Districts and diverters on the Broken River/Broken Creek, Goulburn, Loddon and Campaspe Rivers within the three irrigation systems. The Goulburn Irrigation System covers all or part of the areas of Campaspe, Greater Shepparton, Moira, Loddon and Gannawarra. The boundaries of irrigation districts do not follow the local government boundaries.

The Victorian government excluded irrigated cropping and grazing properties reliant on the Murray Irrigation System from the EC application.

*Dairy farmers reliant on the Goulburn, Campaspe and Loddon irrigation systems were granted full EC assistance on 6 February 2003.

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433