A State Government application for drought assistance for farmers in the North-Eastern Wheatbelt has been given interim approval by the Commonwealth.
Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said the news would be welcomed by farmers in the district who had experienced five consecutive dry seasons.
“Currently, eligible farmers can access a State Government assistance package, but the prima facie acceptance of our Exceptional Circumstances (EC) application now means they can apply for six months' of Commonwealth income support,” Mr Chance said.
"A full EC declaration would make assistance available to eligible farmers for up to two years in the form of fortnightly household assistance from Centrelink and interest rate subsidies totalling as much as $100,000 a year.
“I am thankful for the Commonwealth’s recognition of the difficult circumstances facing these farmers and feel sure a full EC declaration will be made as soon as possible.”
The Minister said the EC application sent by the State Government to the Commonwealth last November covered farmers who had experienced up to five consecutive dry seasons between 2000 and 2004.
On top of the cumulative effects of 2002 being the worst dry season since 1914 and a very variable 2003, seasonal conditions in WA's North-Eastern Wheatbelt deteriorated significantly last year, drastically cutting wheat production.
“There are already two EC-declared areas in WA,” Mr Chance said.
“This application abuts part of the Central North-Eastern, Central Eastern and Southern Eastern Wheatbelt, which was declared on July 24, 2003; and Southern Rangelands, which was declared on July 2, 2003.”
Mr Chance urged farmers to contact Centrelink and discuss their eligibility for assistance as soon as possible.
Application forms for interim income assistance are available from local Centrelink offices or by calling 13 23 16.
North-Eastern Wheatbelt EC application area (2005) description:
Mullewa Shire: east of the following in the agricultural region - from the northern edge of the agricultural region, follow the Murchison Mullewa Road to Mullewa. From Mullewa follow the Mullewa Wubin Road to the Mullewa/Morawa Shire boundary.
Morawa Shire: the entire area east of the Mullewa Wubin Road in the agricultural region.
Perenjori Shire: east and north of the following roads in the agricultural region - from the Morawa/Perenjori Shire boundary follow the Mullewa Wubin through the Town of Perenjori to the Perenjori-Rothsay Road. Follow the road east to the eastern edge of the agricultural region.
Minister's office: 9213 6700