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More WA wheatbelt farmers eligible for Australian Government drought relief.

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DAFF05/024WT - 15 February 2005

More WA wheatbelt farmers eligible for Australian Government drought relief

Around 120 farmers in three drought-affected shires of Western Australia's north eastern wheatbelt can now apply to Centrelink for interim Australian Government Exceptional Circumstances (EC) drought support, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss announced today.

Mr Truss said he had accepted advice from the National Drought Taskforce that a prima facie case had been established for EC assistance for parts of three shires (full description below) in the wheatbelt.

"I have referred the EC application to the National Rural Advisory Council - an independent committee of primary producers and agribusiness professionals - to determine whether the area warrants a full EC declaration," he said.

"On top of the cumulative effects of 2002 being the worst dry season since 1914, and a very variable 2003, seasonal conditions in WA's north eastern wheatbelt deteriorated significantly last year, drastically cutting wheat production."

Mr Truss said there are already two EC-declared areas in WA. This application abuts part of the Central North Eastern, Central Eastern and Southern Eastern Wheatbelt, which was declared on 24 July 2003; and Southern Rangelands, which was declared on 2 July 2003.

"With today's prima facie decision, farmers in parts of the Mullewa, Morawa and Perenjori Shires can now apply for six months' of Australian Government income support," he said.

"A full EC declaration would make assistance available to eligible farmers for up to two years in the form of fortnightly household assistance from Centrelink, and interest rate subsidies totalling as much as $100,000 a year. In these difficult times, I urge farmers to contact Centrelink and discuss their eligibility for assistance as soon as possible."

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

North Eastern Wheatbelt EC application area (2005) description

Mullewa Shire: east of the following in the agricultural region - from the northern edge of the agricultural region, follow the Murchison Mullewa Road to Mullewa. From Mullewa follow the Mullewa Wubin Road to the Mullewa/Morawa Shire boundary.

Morawa Shire: the entire area east of the Mullewa Wubin Road in the agricultural region.

Perenjori Shire: east and north of the following roads in the agricultural

region - from the Morawa/Perenjori Shire boundary follow the Mullewa Wubin through the Town of Perenjori to Rothsay Road. Follow the road east to the eastern edge of the agricultural region.

Further media inquiries:

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

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