darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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March 17, 2010

Exceptional Circumstances (EC) drought assistance has been extended for the Central and East Gippsland region for a further 12 months.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said it was a positive announcement for farmers across the region still battling after a prolonged period of drought. EC drought assistance was due to expire at the end of April 2010. 

Mr Chester had previously written to farmers across Gippsland, seeking details of individual circumstances, so he could present a strong case to the Minister for Agriculture Tony Burke to have drought support extended.  Today it was announced that EC assistance would continue for the local region until April 30, 2011.

“The National Rural Advisory Council inspected the region in late January and made an independent recommendation to Mr Burke’s office which has been accepted. I certainly welcome that decision,” Mr Chester said.

“I also informed Mr Burke’s office that recent rainfall had been helpful, but had not overcome the long-term rainfall deficit. It’s still very dry in many parts of our region. There’s been enough rainfall to give cause for optimism for the year ahead, but there’s still a long way to go before many sections of Gippsland will return to normal conditions.

“Everyone would prefer a return to better conditions and there would be no need for drought assistance. But unfortunately for many farming families – the recovery has been very patchy and there are hundreds of farmers in the region who need further assistance to get back on their feet.”

The extension to April 30, 2011, means eligible dryland farmers in the Central and East Gippsland region can receive income support and interest rate subsidies. The Central and East Gippsland region incorporates the Wellington and East Gippsland shires.

Agriculture-dependent small business operators who derive 70 per cent of their turnover from agriculture in any EC declared area are also eligible to apply for income support payments and interest rate subsidies.  This applies to small businesses in towns with a population of 10,000 which can demonstrate a significant downturn in income due to the drought.

Mr Chester said that farmers and small business operators should not self-assess their eligibility for income support but should call the Drought Assistance Hotline on 13 23 16.

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