Urgent action needed on drought package

Following a meeting with Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce today, WAFarmers is calling for immediate action to be taken by the State government to ensure struggling Western Australian farmers can access the Federal drought assistance package as soon as possible.

 WAFarmers agreed with a suggestion by Minister Joyce that the roll out of loans in Western Australia should be administered by the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority (QRAA), as in Queensland and the Northern Territory, President Dale Park said.

 “Allowing QRAA to administer drought assistance loans to farmers in WA due to the immediacy of the situation for a number of growers, particularly in the Eastern Wheatbelt, would allow for the quickest possible distribution of funds prior to seeding,” he said.

 “As such, we call on Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston to ensure drought-affected farmers get assistance as soon as possible.

 “If not QRAA, we are open to alternative proposals from the State government if it means funds will flow to farmers faster.”

 At the meeting, Minister Joyce agreed with WAFarmers’ desire to see drought-affected farmers in WA have the ability to apply under the same terms and conditions as their eastern states counterparts.

 Other issues on the table at today’s meeting included seasonal labour shortages in regional areas and the negotiation of free trade agreements with Japan and China.

 “We suggested 417 visa conditions be expanded to allow for better continuity of labour, new visa categories be introduced to meet shortages, and skills criteria related to visas were specific to agriculture. The Minister broadly agreed with these ideas and we will ensure they are further raised with him through our submission to the Agricultural White Paper,” Mr Park said.

 “During the meeting we also encouraged Minister Joyce to ensure agriculture was well represented in free trade negotiations, which the Minister assured was the case.”

 Mr Park said he appreciated Minister Joyce making the effort to sit down with WAFarmers and discuss key issues of importance to industry.

 “We thank Minister Joyce for the opportunity to discuss these important issues with him and look forward to a continual and fruitful dialogue into the future.”

ENDS

All media requests must be directed to WAFarmers Marketing and Communications Officer Leslee Hall on (08) 9486 2100 or [email protected].

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