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Redman pleads for Wheatbelt
Terry Redman. Picture: Lara Ladyman/Countryman

Agriculture Minister Terry Redman has taken the extraordinary step of writing to Premier Colin Barnett and key ministers to warn them about the crisis engulfing WA's Wheatbelt.

The ministers were warned last month that in some areas more than 10 per cent of farmers were unlikely to get finance to carry on for another season.

They were also alerted to the prospect of small business closures in country towns.

Mr Redman said yesterday that he appealed for support from a range of government agencies to help rural communities cope with what peak lobby group WAFarmers has described as the worst conditions since the Depression.

"I wrote to all the relevant ministers explaining the challenge in the central and eastern Wheatbelt in particular and asked them to do everything they could in their portfolios to respond to the challenge," he said. "For example, the last thing we need to be doing is closing a school in a community going through a tough time and we don't want to be backing away from the normal investment we make in those communities.

"My goal was to highlight to ministers who have a role in regional areas the plight of these communities and to alert them to the impact their decisions might have."

Mr Redman met bank representatives and received assurances there would not be widespread farm foreclosures despite growing debts after a run of poor seasons.

He remained "eternally optimistic" about the future of farming and defended the WA Nationals record of supporting the industry.

The Nationals have pledged to spend an additional $300 million on agriculture if re-elected as partners in a coalition government.

WAFarmers backed Mr Redman over the use of genetically modified crops yesterday after Labor strategists found he was vulnerable on the issue in his seat of Warren-Blackwood, rezoned to include the Margaret River town site.

WAFarmers president Dale Park said it supported the appropriate use of GM crops under industry-agreed protocols on storage, transport and buffer zones.

Labor will preference Liberal over Nationals candidates in six key Lower House seats, including Warren-Blackwood. A group of Upper House independent candidates led by former Nationals MPs Max Trenorden and Phil Gardiner confirmed yesterday they would preference Liberals, then Labor.

Mr Redman said the Nationals' polling showed independents' decision had the potential to hand Labor another Upper House seat.