- 30th April 2012
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Australians call it the Big Dry and, after an unprecedented nine parched years, it’s over.
It’s the drought that has afflicted large areas of this vast country and now the federal government has officially declared it at an end -the final two areas to be given the all-clear are Bundarra and Eurobodalla in the south-eastern state of New South Wales.
In practical terms, it means that the last of special subsidies to farmers are being withdrawn.
It’s the end of “Exceptional Circumstances”, or EC, to use the bureaucratic jargon.
“The seasonal outlook is brighter than it has been for many years and the improved conditions are a welcome reprieve for farmers across Australia,” said Joe Ludwig, Australia’s agriculture minister.
He said the end of the drought would be “a major milestone for agriculture in Australia”.
Since 2001, the government has provided 4.5bn Australian dollars ($4.7bn, £2.9bn) in EC assistance.
That’s the money handed out to struggling farmers, totalling between 400 and 600 dollars each, every fortnight.
Some farmers say the move to take away the EC assistance is premature.
The National Farmers Federation said the government’s “snap decision” to cut subsidies was “baffling”.
“With no areas likely to be drought-declared in the near future and with a programme to develop alternatives already under way, we ask the question of government: why the rush?” the federation’s president Jock Laurie said.
Australia’s current drought really took hold from 2003 and, depending on the area, has lasted on and off ever since.