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Another 2,000 Queensland farmers eligible for interim Australian government drought support.



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AFFA03/309WT - 30 October 2003

for interim Australian Government drought support

Over 2,000 farmers in Queensland’s Mackay region, the Central Mid-West, and the Emerald-Bauhinia Shires in the State’s central east, can now apply to Centrelink for interim Australian Government drought support, Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss announced today.

Mr Truss said he is satisfied prima facie cases have been established in applications from the Queensland Government and peak lobby groups Agforce and the Queensland Farmers’ Federation for drought Exceptional Circumstances (EC) assistance for these regions.

“Consequently, I have referred the applications to the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) for a full assessment,” Mr Truss said.

“With today’s prima facie decisions, farmers in 14 more drought-affected shires in Queensland’s Mackay region, Central Mid-West and Emerald-Bauhinia can now contact Centrelink and apply for six months income support.

“The Central Mid-West EC application area includes all of the Tambo, Blackall, Barcaldine, Jericho, and Ilfracombe Shires, and parts of the Longreach, Isisford and Murweh Shires. The Emerald-Bauhinia EC application area covers that part of Emerald Shire not already included in the Peak Downs EC declared area, and all of Bauhinia Shire, except for the southeast corner.

“While all producers in the Central Mid-West area are eligible for prima facie assistance, the Queensland Government has asked that cotton growers and horticulture irrigators from the Emerald-Bauhinia Shires not be included in the EC application. Their particular situation will be monitored over the coming months.”

Mr Truss said the Central Mid-West and Emerald-Bauhinia areas had experienced severely reduced rainfall over an 18-month period from March 2002 to August 2003. The poor seasons have resulted in little or no pasture growth in the Central Mid-West, and missed wheat and summer crops in 2002 and 2003 in the Emerald-Bauhinia region.

“To compound problems, the lack of available pasture has forced producers to rely on supplementary fodder for their livestock,” Mr Truss said. “Not surprisingly, this has dramatically increased on-farm costs.

“Farmers in the Mackay, Sarina, Mirani and Whitsunday Shires have suffered a serious lack of rain since August 2001. In fact, two extremely poor wet seasons in a row have failed to deliver enough rain to replenish soil moisture and farm storages, and provide the run-off needed to boost local streams.

Another 2,000 Queensland farmers eligible

“The Mackay region’s sugar industry has been particularly affected, resulting in severe hardships for growers already hard hit by low world sugar prices.

“The beef and horticultural industries have also been hit, reducing the incomes of farm workers and local businesses whose fortunes closely follow the good and bad times of the region’s primary industries.”

Mr Truss said the situation facing the region’s sugar industry is a cause for real concern.

“The Australian Government agrees with sugar industry leaders that long-term industry adjustment is required, and this devastating drought only highlights the urgent need for reform to safeguard local jobs,” he said. “EC is not available in circumstances where low farm incomes are caused by poor prices or structural adjustment, and is not a substitute for reform.”

“I have also now received a revised application from the Queensland Government for EC for the Aramac region, and I expect to be in a position to make an announcement on the status of this application in the near future,” Mr Truss said.

“A successful EC declaration would mean assistance would be available to eligible farmers for a total of two years in the form of fortnightly household assistance from Centrelink, and interest rate subsidies totalling as much as $100,000 a year for two years.

“In these difficult times, I urge all eligible farmers to contact Centrelink and discuss their eligibility for assistance as soon as possible.”

Application forms for interim income assistance are available from local Centrelink offices or by calling 13 23 16.

EC application area descriptions

Central Mid-West

The application covers all producers in the Tambo, Blackall, Jericho, Barcaldine and Ilfracombe Shires and portions of the Longreach, Isisford and Murweh Shires.

● In the Longreach Shire the western boundary is formed by the

Thompson River. ● In the Isisford Shire, the southern boundary is formed by the

following the Barcoo Shire boundary along the Bimerah-Isisford Road, then the Four Corners — Glenloch Road to the Thirty Mile — Wahroongha Road which is followed south to the Emmet Road, which is followed to Emmet. The boundary of the EC area then follows the Yaraka — Blackall Road to the Blackall Shire boundary. ● In Murweh Shire, the boundary follows the Angellala Creek from the

Booringa Shire boundary to the Warrego Highway, the Warrego Highway to Charleville, and the Charleville - Adavale Road to the Quilpie Shire boundary.

Emerald-Bauhinia Shires

The application covers livestock and dryland crop producers in portions of the Emerald and Bauhinia Shires.

The northern boundary is formed by following the Peak Downs Shire boundary east to the Sapphire Road, then south to the Capricorn Highway, which is followed east to Emerald and then north along the Nogoa River to the Peak Downs Shire boundary. The southern boundary follows the Bauhinia Shire boundary from the Carnarvon Gorge National Park Road north to the Carnarvon Development Road, which is followed north to Rolleston, and then the Dawson Highway is followed east to the Duaringa Shire boundary.

Mackay/Whitsunday

Mackay, Sarina, Mirani and Whitsunday Shires.

Further media inquiries:

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