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Farmers in Victoria's central, central east, north east and Wimmera regions to receive interim federal drought relief.

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AFFA03/075WT - 4 April 2003

Farmers in Victoria's central, central east, north east and Wimmera regions to receive interim Federal drought relief

Victorian farmers in 31 drought-affected shires, and three regional centres, can now apply to Centrelink for interim Commonwealth income support and interest rate relief, Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss announced today.

Mr Truss said he is satisfied that a prima facie case has been established for Exceptional Circumstances (EC) assistance for Victoria's Wimmera, north east, central and central east regions.

Four EC applications from the Victorian Government have been referred to the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) for a full assessment. (A full description of the areas, including boundary details, is attached)

Those eligible for prima facie EC assistance will receive six months of income support and interest subsidies for two years on new loans of up to $100,000.

"With today's prima facie decision around 7,000 farmers in Victoria are now able to apply for Federal drought assistance," Mr Truss said.

"In the Wimmera farmers in the Northern Grampians, Pyrenees and Yarriambiack Shires, as well as parts of the city of Horsham are included in today's announcement.

"In the north east, the decision covers the regional centres of Benalla, Wangaratta and Wodonga, as well as the shires of Alpine, Indigo, Mansfield, Mitchell, Murrindindi, Strathbogie and Towong.

"In central Victoria, it covers farmers in the shires of Loddon, Greater Bendigo, Mount Alexander, Hepburn, Macedon Ranges, Moorabool, Hume, Melton, Wyndham and greater Geelong, are also now eligible to apply for Federal drought assistance."

Farmers in the central east, the central goldfields, and the shires of Murrindindi, Mitchell, Strathbogie and Mansfield in the north east are already eligible to apply for Commonwealth assistance under the interim relief package announced on 9 December 2002.

"Producers in the regions covered by the four EC applications have been severely affected by a serious lack of rain since 2001, while some have also had to contend with frost, floods, hail and fire," Mr Truss said. "These conditions have forced livestock producers to reduce stock numbers and buy feed for their core breeding cattle, while irrigators have had to severely reduce production.

"Recent rains have provided a glimmer of hope for primary producers

across the country. However, I am concerned that recovery times may be longer for some enterprises than others, making the EC assessment process quite complex.

"A successful EC declaration would trigger assistance 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 eligible farmers.

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

Mr Truss also encouraged farmers in these areas to apply immediately for their entitlements under the Victorian Governments drought assistance package. Under current state policy, farmers in these areas will lose their eligiblilty for state help of the area is EC declared.

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

Wimmera EC application area

That part of Horsham Rural City, the Northern Grampians, Pyrenees and Yarriambiack Shires which are covered by the following defined areas: Northern Boundary - adjoins the southern boundary of the Victorian Mallee application at Duffholme to the west on the Natimuk-Francis Road. The eastern-most point of the northern boundary of the area is at the town ship of Logan. Western Boundary - extends from Duffholme to the southern boundary of the Parish of Tooan in the Horsham Rural City, on the Wimmera Highway. Southern Boundary - from the southern boundary of the Parish of Tooan in the Horsham Rural City until it meets with the Parish of Noradjuha, south until the southern border of the Parish of Noradjuha, east through the Nurrabiel Parish (Wonwondah Toolondo Road), continuing east through the Wonwondah Parish (North East Wonwondah Road), continuing east through the Laharum Parish (Grampians Road), continuing east through the Parish of Dadswells Bridge (Wonwondah - Dadswells Bridge Road) and south east along the Western Highway. The boundary moves into the Northern Grampians Shire along the western highway to deep Lead. The boundary moves east along the Granard Park-Deep Lead Road and the Vinelea Park - Deep Lead Road to Greens Creek. From Greens Creek, the boundary moves north along the Avoca-Stawell Road and east along the Greens Creek-Tulkara Road, past Tulkara to Boundary Road, the boundary of the Shire. The boundary heads south along the Pyrenees Shire's western boundary until the foot of the Great Dividing Range Limit, and moves along this limit to the eastern side of the Pyrenees Shire. Eastern Boundary - starts from the Great Dividing Range Limit in the Pyrenees Shire, along the Shire boundary. This joins with the eastern border of the Northern Grampians Shire to Logan.

Central Victoria EC application area

The shires of Loddon; Greater Bendigo; Central Goldfields; Mount

Alexander; Hepburn; Macedon Ranges; Moorabool; Hume; Melton; Wyndham; and Greater Geelong.

North east EC application area

The shires of Alpine; Indigo; Mansfield; Mitchell; Murrindindi; Strathbogie; Towong and the rural cities of Benalla; Wangaratta and Wodonga.

Central east EC application area

The shires of Baw Baw; Cardinia; Casey; Nillumbik; Yarra Ranges and Whittlesea.

Further media inquiries:

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