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Tasmanian drought assistance.

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DAFF07/053PM - 4 May 2007

Tasmanian drought assistance

The Federal and Tasmanian Governments are working cooperatively to assess the need to provide financial assistance to drought-affected farmers in the state.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, said today he had been advised the Tasmanian Government would submit an application for Exceptional Circumstances (EC) drought assistance covering the North East, Midlands and Flinders Island within four weeks.

“Officials from my Department are working closely with their counterparts in Tasmania to help them develop the EC application as quickly as possible,” Mr McGauran said.

“However, it is not until the Tasmanian Government actually lodges the application that the Commonwealth can formally assess it for interim EC assistance. Once we have received it, I will consider the application as a matter of urgency.

“The application has to demonstrate that the drought has had an adverse and prolonged impact on Tasmanian farmers. This could include that they have suffered a significant downturn in income, that they have been forced to de-stock, or that their supplies of feed or water have been reduced.

“I would urge farmers to work with the Tasmanian Government to help them complete the application so it can be submitted and assessed as speedily as possible.”

Mr McGauran encouraged farmers located outside the regions covered by the Tasmanian Government’s EC application to put their case to State officials if they felt they should be entitled to drought assistance. Under agreed Commonwealth-State guidelines, it is the responsibility of State Governments to determine the boundaries for EC regions.

“If interim EC assistance is granted, farmers and farm-dependent small businesses will be able to apply for six months’ EC income support from when the declaration is made,” Mr McGauran said.

“This would allow time for the National Rural Advisory Council - an independent group of farmers and agribusiness professionals - to undertake a comprehensive on-the-ground assessment and advise the Government as to whether a full EC declaration is warranted.

“A full EC declaration would allow farmers and small business operators to apply for interest rate subsidies and income support for up to two years.”

Further media inquiries:

Minister McGauran's office: Ben Houston 02 6277 7520