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Armidale and northern New England farmers not eligible for interim drought support.



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AFFA03/371WT - 18 December 2003

Armidale and northern New England farmers not eligible for interim drought support

Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today he has accepted advice that an Exceptional Circumstances (EC) application covering farmers in the Armidale and northern New England regions of NSW has not made a case for EC eligibility.

The application, which was submitted by the NSW Government in late October 2003, covered part of Division B of the Armidale Rural Lands Protection Board (RLPB) west of the New England Highway, and Divisions E and J of the Northern New England RLPB.

"A preliminary assessment of the application by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Bureau of Rural Sciences has found that it does not satisfy the criteria for prima facie EC assistance," Mr Truss said.

The Minister said the NSW application covers only the parts of the Armidale and Northern New England RLPBs that have not already been EC-declared.

The majority of the application area falls within Divisions E and J of the Northern New England RLPB, which has already had NSW Government drought assistance revoked.

"The NSW Government excluded these areas from previously successful Armidale and Northern New England EC applications," Mr Truss said.

"While producers in the adjoining areas have already been EC-declared, the application has not been able to demonstrate the majority of the new application area has experienced a rare and severe, one in 20-25 year event."

Mr Truss said that the region's situation would be monitored closely, and he urged the NSW Government to consider re-submitting its application if conditions worsened.

"In these difficult times I encourage farmers to visit their local Centrelink office or call Centrelink's National Drought Hotline on 13 23 16 to discuss what alternate assistance may be available to them," he said.

Further media inquiries:

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