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Budget 2008: Rudd Government continues EC drought assistance for farmers.\n

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The Hon Tony Burke MP Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

DAFF08/057B13 May 2008

Rudd Government continues EC drought assistance for farmers

Farmers will continue to receive assistance from the effects of drought after the Rudd Government announced it is maintaining Exceptional Circumstances (EC) support in 2008-09.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke said $760.9 million had been committed for EC assistance in the 2008-09 financial year.

“The Rudd Government is standing by our farmers, many of whom are still doing it tough, trying to manage their businesses and support their families in drought,” Mr Burke said.

“Despite some rain earlier this year in parts of Queensland and NSW, some parts of Australia are in their seventh consecutive year of drought.

“There are currently 84 Exceptional Circumstances-declared areas across the country and an additional 14 areas that are interim-declared - more than 69% of Australia’s agricultural land.”

EC assistance helps eligible farmers and small businesses experiencing a severe and prolonged downturn in income due to an EC event, including:

• EC relief payments (or income support) to help with everyday living expenses, paid fortnightly at the same rate as the Newstart Allowance. Recipients and their families may also be eligible for a healthcare card and concessions under the Youth Allowance and Austudy means-tests for dependent children; • EC interest rate subsidies of up to $100,000 per year to help maintain the long-term viability of

the farm enterprise or small business by helping the business survive an exceptional event; and • Exit grants of up to $150,000 for farmers who decide to leave agriculture. Mr Burke said the Rudd Government was also acting on its election commitment to review drought assistance policy to help prepare farmers and local communities for climate change.

“As I announced last month, this review will be carried out in three parts - a social assessment, economic study and scientific examination of climate patterns,” Mr Burke said.

“However, as we have made clear, farmers currently receiving assistance will not be affected.”

“The review will help to ensure that in the future, people emerge from drought better prepared to deal with climate change.”

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