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Seasonal conditions improve in the Central Coast, Southern South East and Stanthorpe-Inglewood drought areas - National Rural Advisory Council.

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DAFF05/069WT - 30 March 2005

Seasonal conditions improve in the Central Coast, Southern South East and Stanthorpe-Inglewood drought areas - NRAC

The Australian Government today accepted advice from the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) not to grant a third year of assistance to three drought-declared Exceptional Circumstances (EC) regions in southern and central Queensland.

Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said he had accepted advice from NRAC - an independent committee of farmers and agribusiness professionals - that farmers in these areas have had some opportunity to begin recovering from the drought, and so are not eligible for an extension to their EC assistance.

"NRAC studied the seasonal conditions in the Central Coast, Southern South East and Stanthorpe-Inglewood EC-declared areas over the past 18 months, and found that most farmers have experienced some seasonal improvements, and have been able to begin to re-build," he said.

"In the Central Coast EC area, NRAC reported average or better pasture growth across most of the region which should help boost local stock numbers. Sorghum yields have also improved over the past two seasons.

"In the Southern South East EC region, a return to average rainfall levels over the past 12 to 24 months has helped boost pasture growth in most areas. NRAC acknowledged; however, that last winter was well below average, and that there may also be long-term concerns with the sustainability of water for irrigation purposes in the region.

"In the Stanthorpe-Inglewood EC area, conditions over the past three summers have generally been average or better - important in a region that predominantly relies on summer pasture growth."

Mr Truss said that, despite NRAC's positive assessment, he realises 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 Queensland Government to lodge a new EC application on their behalf," he said.

"Eligible farmers in these three EC areas are still able to claim a further tranche of EC interest subsidy of up to $100,000. 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 other, non EC-related support services available from Centrelink, such as advice from social workers and Financial Information Service officers, that can 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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