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Farmers urged to check drought support eligibility.

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Press Release Ref: 1482 Published: 13/4/2005 Title: Farmers urged to check drought support eligibility

The Federal Member for Eden-Monaro, Gary Nairn, today reminded south coast farmers they may still be eligible for Australian Government Exceptional Circumstances (EC) drought assistance.

Mr Nairn said livestock (including dairy), stone fruit and crop producers, as well as apiarists in the South Coast Rural Lands Protection Boards (RLPBs) of NSW became eligible for full EC assistance in 2003.

“Because of the continuing severity of the drought in the region, access to EC assistance was extended for a further 12 months last year,” Mr Nairn said.

“An EC declaration means eligible producers can apply to Centrelink for income support, and go to the NSW Rural Assistance Authority for interest rate subsidies of up to $100,000 a year on new and existing loans.

“It’s important to note; however, the deadline for applying for a second year of interest rate subsidies is Friday 6 May 2005.

“Farmers who do not apply by this date could potentially lose a year’s worth of benefits, although they can still apply for the third year of interest rate subsidies from 9 May 2005.

“I want to stress that the 6 May 2005 deadline only covers the second year of interest rate subsidies, it is not the end of EC benefits in the region.”

Mr Nairn said producers wanting to apply for the EC interest rate subsidy should contact the NSW Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593. Those wanting to apply for income support

must also contact the Authority to obtain an EC certificate.

“There are also other, 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 the 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.

“I urge all eligible farmers who have not already done so, to visit their local Centrelink office, or call Centrelink’s National Drought Helpline on 13 23 16, to ask for help,” Mr Nairn said.