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Team effort required to get wheatbelt on its feet

Olivia Garnett, Friday July 12, 2013 - 16:09 EST
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Dale Park says the conditions in much of the wheatbelt is reaching drought proportions - ABC

Farm lobby group WAFarmers met with the Department of Agriculture and Food WA today to discuss the impact of the dry-spell in wheatbelt communities and what the future holds for the troubled region.

Although some parts of the central wheatbelt got a drizzle of rain yesterday, the sense of urgency for eastern parts is growing as the dry winter conditions continue.

WAFarmers President Dale Park sat down with Director General of DAFWA Rob Delane to discuss the pressure on some farmers as drought-like conditions persist.

Mr Park said they didn't look into the possibility of re-activating the state Dry Season Advisory Committee.

In previous dry seasons DSAC was put in place as an advisory group to the cabinet.

"There is a fair bit of red tape mixed in with it, it's also very very structured and we're not convinced it serves the purpose that it should," Mr Park said.

"We've got bigger problems on our plate."

Mr Park said there were two parts to the outcome of the meeting.

"We've got what we would call the acute situation, addressing the dry period we have at the moment.

"Then there's the strategic part, looking at what the future is for the wheatbelt.

"We're going to be looking at input from anyone and everyone in the south west land division of Western Australia.

"Looking at what industries there are in the future, and how we facilitate making it more robust to withstand the sort of situation we've got at the moment.

"The process is certainly not set down at the moment and is something that we believe the agriculture department can help facilitate."

Mr Park hasn't had any indication of when exactly WA will sign up to the Federal Government's Farm Finance package.

Queensland was the first state to agree to the package today.

After months of bickering between politicians, cash-strapped WA farmers will soon be able to apply for concessional loans of $200 000 after the State and the Commonwealth informally agreed on how to administer the $60 million dollar Federal relief package.

The final announcement is yet to be made by Federal Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

"I believe the agreement is quite close," Mr Park said.

"The desperation is over but there is still a big need for financial assistance."

All the States have had problems getting clarity from the federal government on who will be responsible for administering what.

WA Agriculture Minister Ken Baston and his Federal counterpart Joel Fitzgibbon have decided to split the administration costs 50-50, a total of about five-million dollars.

The five year loans will be for $200 000 with an interest rate of 4.5 per cent.

150 will be available this financial year with another 150 next year.

The forms should be available by September and the funds available in October.

Joel Fitzgibbon told ABC Local Radio that once he gets some of the minor issues carved out, he's confident money will flow to other states very quickly.

Mr Baston says the final details on issues like eligibility criteria will likely be announced when the Federal Minister is in WA on the 1st of August for the ABARES Regional Outlook Conference.


© ABC 2013

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