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More Queensland pig, dairy and horticulture producers get EC.

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DAFF04/068WT - 24 March 2004

More Queensland pig, dairy and horticulture producers get EC

More pig, dairy and horticulture producers in Queensland can now apply for Australian Government Exceptional Circumstances (EC) support, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today.

Mr Truss said an EC case has been established for pig producers covered by Queensland Government State drought declarations in the shires of Thuringowa, Mt Morgan and Hinchinbrook, and for the section of the Dalrymple shire south of the Flinders Highway.

Eligible producers will be able to claim EC assistance from today. All pig producers in Queensland shires that are State drought-declared, are now covered by EC.

Mr Truss said an EC case has also been established for dairy producers with Queensland Government Individually Droughted Property Declarations made since 3 November 2003 in the shires of Banana, Calliope, Miriam Vale and Burnett, adjacent to the Burnett EC area. EC assistance for these producers will be backdated to 15 September 2003.

Mr Truss also announced the removal of the 25 per cent tree-death criteria for perennial horticulture producers in the Burnett EC area. This decision means all perennial horticulture producers, excluding citrus producers (who were not included in the application by the Queensland Government), will have access to EC assistance without having to prove tree-death in their orchards.

Mr Truss said he had accepted recommendations from the National Rural Advisory Council - an independent committee of primary producers and agribusiness professionals - in relation to these applications.

"These tree, pigmeat and dairy producers have been significantly affected by the drought, with considerably reduced income prospects in recent years," Mr Truss said.

"However, with today's EC decision, they can apply for interest rate subsidies of up to $100,000 a year for two years, and income support for up to two years," Mr Truss said.

"They should apply for EC Relief Payments at Centrelink offices, or by calling Centrelink's National Drought Hotline on 13 23 16 (except on national public holidays). And they should contact the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority on 1800 623 946 to apply for EC interest rate subsidies.

"The EC interest rate relief that comes with this announcement will provide much needed assistance at a critical stage of the recovery process. In these difficult times, I urge all eligible farmers to contact Centrelink and

discuss their eligibility for assistance as soon as possible."

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

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Kathy Tricolas - 02 6277 7520 or 0412 929 191