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Action on US Farm Bill too little too late.

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Action on US Farm Bill too little too late

Australian farmers will pay the price for the Howard Government’s failure to take quicker action to lobby the Bush Administration and the US Congress on the passage of the US Farm Bill, Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Senator Kerry O’Brien said today.

Senator O’Brien said the Howard Government failed Australian farmers by refusing to take urgent action to lobby the Bush Administration and US Congress when it first became aware of the significant increase in funding for the Farm Bill.

As a result, lobbying in Washington on the package of subsidies was left exclusively in the hands of US farmers.

“This farm support package has been on the US agenda for some considerable time with the Farm Security Bill, which adds $146 billion to the existing subsidy of $190 billion, passing through the House of Representatives on 5 October,” Senator O’Brien said.

Australian farmers were calling for quick action from the Government at that time to make its concerns known to Washington about the proposed subsidy boost.

“But the best the Government could do was to send the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Truss, and a small delegation of farming representatives to Washington some two months later on an 11th hour mission to spend just two days knocking on doors.”

“The Prime Minister should have given this matter much higher priority but he failed to do so and Australian farmers are the ones who will have to pay for his inaction.” Senator O’Brien said.

Senator O’Brien said it appeared that Australian farmers would also suffer from an apparent deal between the White House and Congress to exclude commodities such as sugar and citrus from any free trade agreements.

For comment: Senator Kerry O’Brien 03 63349366 or 0419 007780. 12.12.01.