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WA farmers to receive further drought assistance.

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DAFF05/077WT - 7 April 2005

WA farmers to receive further drought assistance

Around 120 farmers in Western Australia's north-eastern wheatbelt region are now eligible for the Australian Government's Exceptional Circumstances (EC) drought assistance, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss announced today.

Mr Truss said he had accepted advice from the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) - an independent committee of primary producers and agribusiness professionals - that poor seasonal conditions in the region had affected four out of the past five wheat crops.

"The new EC-declared area covers parts of the Mullewa, Morawa and Perenjori Shires (full description provided below)," Mr Truss said. "Farmers in a 15km buffer zone along the area's north-western and southern boundaries who have experienced similar conditions will also be eligible for assistance," he said.

Wheatbelt farmers in these areas are able to apply for up to two years of income support. Applications can be made at Centrelink offices, or by calling Centrelink's National Drought Hotline on 13 23 16.

Farmers in affected areas are also able to apply for interest subsidies of up to $100,000 a year for two years by contacting the WA Department of Agriculture's Farm Development Unit on 1800 198 231.

Producers covered by previous EC declarations should be aware that under the EC guidelines eligible farmers can only receive interest rate subsidies for three years over a five year period.

WA North Eastern Wheatbelt EC area

Mullewa Shire - East of the following in the agriculture 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. West of these two roads is a 15km buffer zone.

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. There is a 15km buffer zone south of Rothsay Road to the Mullewa Wubin Road.

12-month EC extension for farmers in Southern Rangelands

Producers in Western Australia's Southern Rangelands region have been granted a 12-month extension to Exceptional Support (EC) support, the Australian Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss announced today.

Mr Truss said this announcement further highlights the Howard/Anderson Government's strong commitment to helping farmers battling extended drought.

"I have accepted advice from the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) that there had been little opportunity for Southern Rangelands farmers to begin recovering from the drought. Rainfall since the initial EC declaration has been very disappointing.

"Income support and interest rate subsidies of up to $100,000 a year will be available to eligible farmers in the region for a further 12 months," he said.

The Australian Government has also accepted advice from NRAC not to grant a third year of assistance to three drought-declared EC regions in eastern wheatbelt regions of WA.

Mr Truss said NRAC had advised that the majority of producers in the Central North Eastern, Central Eastern and Central South Eastern Wheatbelt regions have fared better, and have had some opportunity to begin recovering from the drought.

"Seasonal conditions across these three regions during the 2003 winter growing season were good, resulting in average to well above average wheat yields. The 2004 cropping season; however, was less favourable, with highly-variable yields," he said.

Farmers in these regions are still able to claim a second round of interest rate subsidies of up to $100,000 until 1 July this year.

Mr Truss said that, despite NRAC's positive assessment, he realised that some farmers in the three regions are still hurting because of the drought.

"If there are parts of these EC areas where farmers believe they should have their EC declarations extended, they should contact the Western Australian Government to lodge a new EC application on their behalf.

"I would urge any farmers experiencing difficulties to visit their local Centrelink office or call Centrelink's National Drought Helpline on 13 23 16, to discuss their circumstances.

"There are also non EC-related support services available from Centrelink, such as advice from social workers and Financial Information Service officers, to help individual farmers and their families deal with and recover from the effects of drought.

"The Australian Government also provides support through the AAA Farm Help program, which is available to eligible producers suffering severe financial difficulty and who cannot borrow further against their assets," Mr Truss said.

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Kylie Butler - 02 6277 7520 or 0417 652 488

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