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February 2, 2011

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester and State Member for Gippsland East Tim Bull are supporting the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) in its campaign to have Exceptional Circumstances (EC) drought funding extended in Gippsland past the April 30 deadline.

Senior VFF representative Chris Nixon from Orbost recently told ABC Radio that decent rainfall across Gippsland came too late for producers in some parts of the region.

“While some parts of East Gippsland enjoyed a reasonable sort of a spring, it was very poor around Stratford, Heyfield, Yarram, right through to Bairnsdale,” Mr Nixon said.

EC provisions can only be extended following an assessment by the National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC) at the recommendation of the State Department of Primary Industries (DPI). NRAC will assess conditions throughout Gippsland next week.

Mr Chester said while there had been some signs of recovery for parts of Gippsland, the fairest approach would be to extend EC for a further 12 months to give certainty for local farmers.

“While there was good rainfall throughout November and December, it was too late for many local farmers and the impact of more than a decade of dry conditions is still evident across the region,” Mr Chester said.

“There is no doubt that some parts of Gippsland are slowly recovering from the effects of prolonged dry conditions but the recovery can be described as patchy at best.

“In the interest of supporting farming families in difficult times, I believe there is a strong case for extending EC provisions beyond April 30.”

Mr Bull has also been approached by several East Gippsland farmers concerned that EC provisions may not continue. He said that he will work with Mr Chester in supporting local farmers.

“I have been in contact with a number of local farmers concerned that EC may not be extended past the April 30 deadline,” Mr Bull said.

“The Nationals have a history of standing up for the interests of farming families and I’m working with Darren to make sure that their views and interests are taken into account during NRAC’s drought assessment process.”

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