Up to 3,000 Western Australian farmers could be sent to the wall unless the Howard Government fast tracks drought aid, Agriculture and Food Minister Kim Chance said today.
Mr Chance was appealing to the Federal Government to fast track WA’s Exceptional Circumstances (EC) application before the Prime Minister called the Federal election, which would put the application on hold during the caretaker period.
“I am extremely concerned that if the Prime Minister calls the Federal election without dealing with our EC application first, WA farmers could be stranded without aid for months,” he said.
“I wrote to the Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran on Friday to express my concern to him.”
The Minister said farm income had already suffered a severe downturn in 2006 and 2007 as a direct result of crop failure in both seasons.
He said recent analysis of climatic, crop production, and farm income evidence completed by the Department of Agriculture and Food over the period May 2006 to September 2007, provided a clear case under Federal EC criteria for the Northern Wheatbelt and northern areas of the Eastern Wheatbelt to be declared eligible for assistance.
“By fast-tracking the application process and declaring the area eligible for EC assistance, immediate business support, through interest rate subsidies, would then be available to those most severely affected,” Mr Chance said.
“The necessary information has been provided by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA to the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to ensure the complex assessment process can be expedited.
“It’s time for the Federal Government to ensure our EC application is approved now.”
WA’s application, prepared by the Department of Agriculture and Food, covers the areas of the Northern Wheatbelt and the northern areas of the Eastern Wheatbelt, and will provide assistance to up to 3,000 producers.
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