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Budget 2008: Minister cuts drought funding while farmers suffer.



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Media Contact Cath O’Connor (03) 5032 4510 -ends-

Thursday, 15 May 2008

MINISTER CUTS DROUGHT FUNDING WHILE FARMERS SUFFER

Member for Mallee, John Forest, said today, “One of the cruellest hits to the morale of Wimmera and Mallee farmers was delivered by the government through last night’s budget with the cuts to Exceptional Circumstances funding”.

“Drought affected farmers must be left asking themselves ‘what next’ when the budget handed down reduced exceptional circumstances funding and not one dollar for people facing a return or extension to their EC beyond September 2008.

Mr Forrest urges any growers who have not yet applied for assistance should do so immediately before it cuts out.”

“While we all wait and hope for the rain to come, the government has slashed the EC budget by a third this year with nothing beyond.

“The budget shows $760.9 million for EC in 07-08, with next to nothing beyond.

“The only new measure being offered is $14million for household support for farmers that have struggled through years of little to no income, said Mr Forrest

“The weather is unreliable enough without farmers having to rely on a government that is quite happy to rip out over $1 billion in funding for other regional and remote Australian programs, said the member for Mallee.

“All predictions point to continuing hard times and while I hope the climate experts have it wrong, it is shameful for the government to leave no money in the budget to assist farmers experiencing drought.

“Farmers do not want assurances that it will be all right in the end, they need a government that will stand by them.

“When the drought breaks, then and only then, should the government take the money needed for Exceptional Circumstances support and use it for other purposes.

“Until then, leave the program alone and provide some certainty that farmers will be able to keep their farms and feed their families, said Mr Forrest.

John Forrest MP The Nationals Member for Mallee

Phone (03) 5032 4510 Fax (03) 5032 9407