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All of Victoria's farm land now drought declared.



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DAFF07/037PM - 23 March 2007

All of Victoria’s farm land now drought declared

In a stark reminder of the severity of the current drought, for the first time ever, drought declarations cover all of Victoria’s agricultural land.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, said today that interim Exceptional Circumstances (EC) drought assistance had been extended to farmers and farm-dependent small businesses in South and West Gippsland.

“We are constantly monitoring the drought assistance we provide to make sure it is as effective as possible,” Mr McGauran said.

“Since last October, when we extended EC to all farmers, no matter what they produce, the number of Victorians accessing EC income support has jumped an extraordinary 83 per cent.

“With today’s decision to provide farmers and farm-dependent small businesses in South and West Gippsland with interim EC drought assistance, worth up to $14 million, this figure will rise even higher.

“Farmers in South and West Gippsland can now apply to Centrelink for six months EC income support. Small business operators with up to 100 employees and who derive at least 70 per cent of their income directly from agriculture are also eligible to apply for the assistance.”

Today’s interim EC declaration includes the Local Government Areas of Baw Baw, Yarra Ranges, Southern Gippsland, Cardinia, Casey and Bass Coast that have agricultural production. A map of the area is attached.

“I wish to stress that this decision does not automatically lead to a full EC declaration. Such a declaration will depend, in large measure, on how much rain the region receives over the next couple of months,” Mr McGauran added.

"The EC application has now been referred to the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) - an independent group of primary producers and agribusiness professionals - for a comprehensive assessment. NRAC will recommend to the Government whether or not the criteria for full EC are met.

"I urge farmers and small business operators not to self-assess but to contact Centrelink or the Drought Assistance Hotline on 13 23 16 to discuss their eligibility for assistance as soon as possible.”

View the map of West Gippsland EC declared area.

Further media inquiries:

Minister McGauran's office: Ben Houston 02 6277 7520