EASTERN Queensland farmers have been caught up in an unfortunate "buck-passing" situation between the State and Federal governments, which will result in limited access to Rural Financial Counsellors after the end of 2012.
The State Government announced in its September Budget that it would be removing 13 state-funded rural financial counsellor positions.
We have expressed our disappointment at this, stating that these are vital services which are needed in all seasons and not just when the state is in drought.
Our northern members have advised that the counsellors were very helpful after Cyclones Yasi and Larry in the past six years.
The Rural Financial Counsellors scheme is predominantly a Commonwealth initiative with some funding from the states.
New South Wales has 36 federally funded Rural Financial Counsellors and Victoria has 31.
The remaining 11 federally funded counsellors in Queensland cover regions that are all well west of the Great Divide and exclude the Granite Belt, Darling Downs, Charters Towers and Atherton Tablelands.
The majority of horticultural farms in Queensland now fall in an unserviced area.
Growcom contacted the office of Brisbane-based federal Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senator Joe Ludwig, to find out what alternative arrangements there might be for farmers in the areas which will no longer have counsellors.
The Minister's spokesperson advised that there were no plans for any of the western Queensland counsellors to be more evenly re-distributed so that eastern Queensland could be serviced.
The spokesperson said they were examining the capacity of the remaining counsellors to assist eastern Queensland farmers in urgent need.
It would be interesting to know what "urgent" means.
We hope that eastern farmers will be able to remotely access financial counsellors on the same basis as their western counterparts and not have to reach crisis point before they are eligible.
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