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More Qld farmers get Australian Government drought aid.

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DAFF03/375WT - 23 December 2003

More QLD farmers get Australian Government drought aid

More than 1,000 farmers in Queensland's Central Mid West region and Emerald-Bauhinia Shires can now apply to Centrelink for full Australian Government Exceptional Circumstances (EC) drought assistance, Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss announced today.

The Central Mid West EC declaration covers all of the Tambo, Blackall, Barcaldine, Jericho, Aramac and Ilfracombe Shires, and parts of the Longreach, Isisford and Murweh Shires.

The Emerald-Bauhinia EC area covers the portion of the Emerald Shire not already included in the Peak Downs EC area, and all of the Bauhinia Shire, except for the southeast corner. Buffer zones surround parts of the declared areas (details attached).

"The declaration covers all producers in the Central Mid West and Emerald-Bauhinia regions, except for cotton and horticulture irrigators, who were not included in the original applications," Mr Truss said.

"Both regions have experienced severe rainfall deficiencies over an 18-month period between March 2002 and August 2003. These deficiencies have resulted in little or no pasture growth in both regions. In addition there have been missed crops between winter 2002 and summer 2003, and low yields for the 2003 winter wheat crop in the Emerald-Bauhinia Shire area.

"The lack of available pasture has forced producers to rely on supplementary feeding of their livestock, dramatically increasing on-farm costs.

"Livestock numbers have had to be significantly reduced, and while forced livestock sales have helped relieve some short-term cash flow problems, many farmers will be forced heavily into debt by the expensive task of rebuilding their herds.

"With today's EC decision eligible producers in the Central Mid-West region and Emerald-Bauhinia shires can apply for interest rate subsidies of up to $100,000 a year for two years, and income support for up to two years," Mr Truss said.

Mr Truss has also announced that around 30 pig and dairy producers in eight Queensland shires have become eligible for interim Australian government drought support, as their applications for EC assistance have been found to make a prima facie case.

Mr Truss said these pig and dairy producers can now apply to Centrelink for six months' of interim income support, as the EC applications have

been referred to the NRAC for a full assessment.

"Today's prima facie declarations cover pig producers in the shires of Thuringowa, Mt Morgan and Hinchinbrook, as well as that section of the Dalrymple shire south of the Flinders Highway.

"The Queensland Government also applied for Australian Government drought assistance for pig producers in the Shires of Banana, Mareeba, Maryborough, Isis, Calliope and Burnett. However, these shires are not State drought declared and farmers are unable to access State drought assistance. As a consequence the Australian Government is unable to consider them for interim EC assistance.

"It is extraordinary that the Queensland Government would apply for an Australian Government declaration of Exceptional Circumstances for areas they have not drought declared and which are not eligible for the state's drought assistance," Mr Truss said.

"Dairy producers covered by Queensland Government Individual Droughted Property declarations in the shires of Banana, Calliope, Miriam Vale and Burnett will be eligible to apply to Centrelink for six months of income support.

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

"Farmers should apply for EC Relief Payments at Centrelink offices, or by calling Centrelink's National Drought Hotline on 13 23 16 (except on national public holidays).

"They should contact the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority on 1800 623 946 to apply for EC interest rate subsidies.

"Small business operators in EC-declared regions who are experiencing a downturn because of the drought can also apply to Centrelink for interest rate relief on new and existing loans of up to $100,000. They should call the Centrelink National Drought Hotline."

Description of the EC application areas

Central Mid West The application covers all producers in the Tambo, Blackall, Jericho, Barcaldine, Aramac and Ilfracombe Shires and portions of the Longreach, Isisford and Murweh Shires.

● In the Longreach Shire the western boundary is formed by the

Thompson River.

● In the Isisford Shire, the southern boundary is formed by the

following the Barcoo Shire boundary along the Bimerah-Isisford Road, then the Four Corners - Glenloch Road to the Thirty Mile - Wahroongha Road which is followed south to the Emmet Road, which is followed to Emmet. The boundary of the EC area then follows the Yaraka -Blackall Road to the Blackall Shire boundary.

● In Murweh Shire, the boundary follows the Angellala Creek from the

Booringa Shire boundary to the Warrego Highway, the Warrego Highway to Charleville, and the Charleville - Adavale Road to the Quilpie Shire boundary.

Emerald-Bauhinia Shires The application covers all producers (except cotton and horticulture irrigators) in portions of the Emerald and Bauhinia Shires.

The northern boundary is formed by following the Peak Downs Shire boundary east to the Sapphire Road, then south to the Capricorn Highway, which is followed east to Emerald and then north along the Nogoa River to the Peak Downs Shire boundary. The southern boundary follows the Bauhinia Shire boundary from the Carnarvon Gorge National Park Road north to the Carnarvon Development Road, which is followed north to Rolleston, and then the Dawson Highway is followed east to the Duaringa Shire boundary.

Description of Buffer Zones

Central Mid West The buffer zone consists of a 20-kilometre zone west of the Thompson River in the Longreach Shire, and the entire area of Belyando Shire south of the Clermont-Aramac Road between the Aramac Shire boundary and Mistake Creek.

Emerald-Bauhinia The buffer zone covers a 7-kilometre area to the east of the application area in the Duaringa and Bauhinia Shires.

Further media inquiries:

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