THE State Government has delivered details of its long-awaited drought assistance package after being criticised recently for dragging its feet in response to this year's harsh seasonal conditions.
State Agriculture Minister Kim Chance has announced $5.3 million in funding assistance for WA growers experiencing the state's driest start to winter on record, with many now having lost all hope of producing a good harvest, despite the recent rain.
The funds will go towards helping growers in areas declared "worst affected" by the drought.
The Dry Season Assistance Scheme (DSAS) will initially be made available to farmers in the shires of Northampton, Chapman Valley, Mullewa, Greenough, Irwin, Carnamah, Mingenew, Morawa, Three Springs, Perenjori and Dalwallinu.
Mr Chance said farmers in the declared areas would be able to apply for funding on a range of measures to help deal with their situation.
Areas to the south of these shires would continue to be monitored as the season unfolded and would also be considered for assistance if there was a poor finish.
In addition, pastoralists declared eligible under the Nullarbor Dry Season Assistance Scheme 2006 can also apply for assistance as part of the package.
Dry Seasons Advisory Committee (DSAC) chairman Dexter Davies said this season's package had been delivered up two months earlier than in previous droughts.
Mr Davies said previous announcements had been made in November.
"The timing of the response will help ease pressure on growers and assist with early decision-making," Mr Davies said.
Mr Davies was also adamant that this season's application process would be easier and ensure that the government delivers on its other promise made at the Mullewa drought meeting - to cut red tape.
"The application process is simpler than before and has been refined, all growers have to do is provide an invoice and demonstrate there is something to pay against," Mr Davies said.
"So long as they meet the criteria that have been set out, then the process is not much different to how it has worked in the past."
Under the DSAS, farmers are able to apply for a $7500 grant - an increase of $1500 on the package offered to affected farmers in 2004.
The package is aimed at ensuring farmers have access to advice and counselling, and to assist in offsetting the immediate costs associated with animal welfare and soil erosion issues.
Mr Chance said the grant could be used to cover one or a combination of the costs incurred for freight on agistment, fodder and water.
Money from the scheme can be used by growers to improve water supplies, develop feedlot infrastructure and access professional advice.