WA farmers tell Truss to change EC boundaries

26 Jul, 2001 07:12 AM
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INDIGNANT WA farmers have told Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss that boundaries drawn up for Exceptional Circumstances funding needed to be changed.

Mr Truss had made a quick visit to WA last week to inspect drought-hit properties in several regions, including Kondinin, Mukinbudin and Jerramungup.

Mr Truss was accompanied by his WA counterpart Kim Chance, political party leaders, Senator Winston Crane, WAFF chief Colin Nicholl and PGA economics manager Lynne Johnston.

At Jerramungup, around 500 angry farmers told Mr Truss that the boundaries had been drawn up in a haphazard fashion.

Mr Truss agreed to meet six spokesmen for the group, which comprised producers ineligible for EC funding because of the inappropriate siting of the area from which EC funding applications can be made.

Local farmer Ian Mangan told Mr Truss that "whoever drew the boundaries drew a straight east-west line along Gairdner's Swamp Road".

"That disqualifies a host of farmers between Gairdner and Bremer Bay, some of whom are in real trouble," he said.

"That area has had three bad seasons in the last four.

"Stock agents have estimated more than 100,000 sheep have gone from this area because of the bad seasons ‹ that could be a loss of more than $2m income for over-stressed farmers. Crops have been unprofitable".

Mr Mangan said the south coastline was a fairer boundary to use.

Another farmer, Geoff Bell, said he was "staggered" at the way the EC boundaries had been created.

"The right hand doesn't seem to know what the left hand's doing. This has been going on here since last November," he said.

"It's not only drought. Three years ago, much of the crop land between here and Bremer Bay was flooded, waterlogged".

Mr Bell's sheep all went months ago, while Mr Mangan sent off another 600 the day following Mr Truss' visit.

Mr Truss assured his listeners that EC funding criteria was flexible.

But for many farmers, it's the speed at which Mr Truss' response to their plight materialises that now concerns them.

Jerramungup-based agricultural consultant Graeme Laslett accompanied Mr Truss as he inspected some of the farms in the region.

"I think seeing the farms have increased Mr Truss' grasp of the issues facing farmers here," he said.

"He now understands that these farmers had to sow their land and not leave it here to wind erosion.

"Both the Federal and state ministers want to help; Mr Truss was quite emphatic about that and that the boundaries issue be clarified".

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