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Drought assistance hits all-time high.



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DAFF07/044PM - 15 April 2007

Drought assistance hits all-time high

More than $2 million a day is being provided by the Federal Government in drought assistance payments - doubling the amount that was being spent just six months ago.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, said the significant increase in Exceptional Circumstances (EC) payments followed the Government’s announcement in October 2006 extending assistance to all eligible farmers in EC areas, regardless of what they produce.

“Following the October announcement, the Government’s spending on EC income support and interest rate subsidies has jumped from around $7 million a week, to $17 million a week,” Mr McGauran said.

“We have constantly had our drought assistance measures under review, and the big rise in the amount being provided reflects the Government’s efforts to make it as accessible and effective as possible.”

Mr McGauran said that in October last year, 9700 farming families were receiving EC income support. The most recent data revealed that figure had jumped to 17,500 families receiving assistance - an increase of 80 per cent.

“The figures are a stark reminder of the intensity of the prolonged drought, and its severe impact on rural and regional Australia. Our farmers, whose reputation for resilience is unparalleled, continue to withstand record high temperatures, and record low rainfall.

“If the strong forecasts from meteorological experts prove to be correct, there should soon be good autumn rains, with decent winter rain to follow. This would allow many farmers to enter the drought recovery phase.

“The Government will continue to provide support to farmers through a range of assistance measures, primarily EC, for the duration of the drought.

“I urge farmers and small businesses in the 67 areas currently EC-declared not to self-assess, but to contact the Drought Assistance Hotline on 13 23 16 to determine their eligibility for drought assistance as soon as possible,” Mr McGauran concluded.

Further media inquiries:

Minister McGauran's office: Ben Houston 02 6277 7520