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EC drought support extended for Atherton Tableland dairy farmers.

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MEDIA RELEASE [29 November 2005]

B2005/120 - EC drought support extended for Atherton Tableland dairy farmers Dairy farmers on the Atherton Tablelands will have their Exceptional Circumstances (EC) drought assistance extended for a further six months, Leader of The Nationals in the Senate, Ron Boswell, said today.

Senator Boswell said the extension covers eligible producers in the EC areas of Atherton Tablelands including the Shires of Atherton and Eacham, and parts of Herberton and Mareeba Shires.

“I’m pleased that the Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran has accepted the advice of the National Rural Advisory Council — an independent group of farmers and agribusiness professionals — to allow this extension of assistance,” Senator Boswell said.

“The decision recognises that, while conditions are generally improving across Queensland with good winter rains, extra time is needed to ensure the recovery is maintained in areas like the Atherton Tablelands,” he said.

“The region also depends on summer rainfall, so the Minister’s decision to extend EC assistance for six months will help take the pressure off local farmers until the results of the summer growing season are known.”

Senator Boswell said Atherton Tablelands pig producers will not have their EC support extended, largely because the cost of feed has fallen steadily since the worst of the drought.

“Today’s extension means eligible farmers in EC-declared areas can apply for Australian Government drought assistance — including EC Interest Rate Subsidies (ECIRS) and EC Relief Payments (ECRP) — for a further six months.

“They will also benefit from the announcement in May 2005 of a simpler off-farm assets test for ECIRS; an increase in the ECIRS rate from 50 to 80 per cent and a reduced waiting period between applications.

“The threshold for the off-farm assets test doubled to $446,000 per farm business — an amount that will be adjusted with the consumer price index. And changes announced in June will make more farmers eligible for ECIRS.”

Senator Boswell said the Government had also introduced an additional $10,000 exemption to the off-farm income test.

“That means more farmers will be eligible for ECRP support, and those receiving part payments, will be eligible for higher benefits,” he said.

“I encourage farmers and their families to contact Centrelink as soon as possible to check on their eligibility for assistance.”

Farmers experiencing difficulties should visit a Centrelink office, or call Centrelink's National Drought Helpline on 13 23 16, to discuss their circumstances in relation to ECRP, or QRAA on 1800 623 946 for ECIRS.

Ends For more details, please call Leah Nicoll (Senator Boswell's office) on 3001 8150