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EC SAFETY NET EXTENDED TO CATCH MORE FARM FAMILIES

24 October 2006

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) today welcomed the Federal Government’s extension of Exceptional Circumstances provisions as a “measured and timely response to a disaster on a national scale”.

“The Federal Government is moving to deal with the ‘here and now’ issues first, notably the need to help farm families to survive the worst drought on record by extending the Exceptional Circumstances (EC) safety net and making it more flexible to catch more families,” NFF President David Crombie said.

“EC is, effectively, Newstart Allowance to put food on the table and pay the bills, along with an interest rate subsidy to help manage farm debt. Farmers must satisfy a stringent ‘viability test’ to ensure only viable farms are eligible, as well as assets and income tests.

“The extension of EC is very welcome. NFF has sought greater flexibility around EC to extend its coverage and provide certainty. With the drought deepening across much of the continent, the knowledge that support is now ongoing will be a great relief to farmers and their families.

“Today’s announcement builds on the Prime Minister’s move last week, declaring 18 regions would have their EC status extended for 18 months. After today, that number is expected to climb to 44.

“In additional, NFF welcomes modifications to the EC guidelines, including a lifting of the Interest Rate Subsidy cap making the relief provisions accessible to more families in need.

“NFF sees EC support as essential to seeing farmers and their families through this ‘1-in-100-year event’. The announcement of an additional $9 million in funding to financial and personal counselling is also very important at this time, as the social pressures are mounting.

“Recognising the prolonged nature of this drought, professional advice for farmers in areas EC-declared for more than three years is an important measure in helping farm businesses manage this event.

“We also urge farmers not to ‘self-assess’ as they often wrongly assume they are ineligible for EC. Rather, we are advising all farmers in EC declared regions to contact their nearest Centrelink Office to be updated of their full entitlements.

“NFF has been in constant discussion with the Federal Government for several weeks, looking at an appropriate drought response measure. By necessity, EC is the first priority. We continue to closely monitor the situation, and what further measures may be required to manage this severe event going forward.”

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan, NFF Public Affairs, (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250 email:

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