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Rural News

Online improvements provide more support for farmers

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Online improvements provide more support for farmers

An online platform to support farmers manage climate risks and build drought resilience has been improved following input from across the agricultural sector.

The improvements follow engagement across the agricultural sector, including testing the platform prototype in pilot regions, to ensure it provides practical information to help build farmers’ climate adaptability.

Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Murray Watt, said new additions to the Climate Service for Agriculture (CSA) platform would give more farmers and agricultural businesses a clearer picture of climate trends likely to impact them.

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“Regions across Australia have experienced widespread and devastating flooding for the past three years,” Minister Watt said.

“However, drought is also a natural part of our landscape, and periods of drought are likely to become more frequent and severe with climate change.

“That’s why innovative digital tools for farmers, like CSA, are essential to prepare for the return of dry conditions and the changing climate.

“Farmers can use CSA to assess how the climate variables that matter to their business could change in the future at their location.

Minister Watt said the CSA platform was developed through the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, with funding from the Future Drought Fund.

“Australian farmers have a great story to tell when it comes to sustainability and by building resilience on farm their sustainable credentials will only increase,” he said.

“The Albanese Government is committed to ensuring our agricultural industry has the tools it needs to be sustainable, helping them reach their own climate goals.”

CSA provides historical climate data, seasonal outlooks and future climate projections to help inform decision making and build drought resilience – now, and in the future.

For more information on the Climate Services for Agriculture visit https://climateservicesforag.indraweb.io/

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Health News

Budget 2024-25: Rural Health Equity Remains Unaddressed

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Budget 2024-25: Rural Health Equity Remains Unaddressed

 

Statement by the National Rural Health Alliance

The recent Federal Budget has missed a crucial opportunity to tackle the persistent healthcare disparities between rural and urban Australia, asserts the National Rural Health Alliance.

Nicole O’Reilly, Chairperson of the National Rural Health Alliance, expressed disappointment at the budget’s failure to meet expectations. She emphasised the government’s lack of responsiveness to rural voices and its failure to commit to comprehensive reforms that would deliver sustainable and long-term benefits for rural communities.

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The statistics paint a stark picture: Australians living farther from urban centres have lower life expectancies and are twice as likely to succumb to preventable illnesses. Rural men and women face significantly higher risks of dying from avoidable causes compared to their urban counterparts. Alarmingly, many rural residents lack access to primary healthcare services within a reasonable distance from their homes, leading to reduced utilisation of Medicare services and exacerbating the burden of disease in remote areas.

O’Reilly highlighted the evidence indicating a significant disparity in healthcare spending, with each person in rural and remote Australia missing out on nearly $850 per year in healthcare access, totalling an annual rural health underspend of $6.5 billion.

The National Rural Health Alliance welcomed certain budget measures, such as the support for rural training opportunities through initiatives like the Charles Darwin University Menzies Medical Program and additional funding for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. However, O’Reilly stressed that these efforts alone are insufficient to address the diverse healthcare needs across rural and remote Australia.

While acknowledging positive steps, O’Reilly emphasised the urgent need for more comprehensive and sustained commitments to ensure equitable healthcare outcomes for rural and remote Australians. She urged the government to prioritise rural health reform in future budget allocations to ensure that all communities receive the care and support they deserve.

 

For more health news, click here.

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Local News

Senate Inquiry confirms unconscionable treatment of growers by big supermarkets and Bunnings

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Senate Inquiry confirms unconscionable treatment of growers by big supermarkets and Bunnings

 

The NFF Horticulture Council has today welcomed the report by the Senate Select Committee on Supermarket Prices, which reveals the true cost of supermarket power and exploitative behaviour being borne by both Australian households and the national horticulture industry.

Chair of the Council Jolyon Burnett said that while the evidence of price gouging at the checkout has not surprised anyone, there has been shock at the evidence of widespread appalling treatment of fresh produce suppliers.

“What started as an important investigation into supermarket pricing practices on struggling households has also provided widespread examples and growing appreciation of the impacts of supermarket profiteering on the sustainability of Australian fresh produce and nursery businesses and supply chains,” said Mr Burnett.

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“The Select Committee has today reported on troubling testimony from growers, of predatory pricing practices that exploit the perishable nature of fresh produce, the imposition on growers of costs and risks outside their control, and of an almost universal fear of commercial retribution should any objections be raised.

“Not only are growers getting a raw deal with every trade, they’re also left with little profit to reinvest in the productivity of their businesses. Our partners, including transport operators, are also getting squeezed leaving our food supply chain weak and susceptible to disruption.

“But this report is just part of a growing base of evidence that is painting supermarkets and Bunnings in the same light as the big four banks following the Royal Commission into that industry.

“Still unfolding is the Review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct led by Dr Craig Emerson, due to report by 30 June, and the ACCC Supermarkets Inquiry 2024-25, expected to table an interim report no later than 31 August with a final report due next February.

“We expect the ACCC reporting in particular to paint a far more vivid picture of unscrupulous supermarket practices given the addition powers of the ACCC to compel evidence and testimony.

The Council has welcomed recommendations by the Select Committee to dramatically tighten provisions within the Food and Grocery Code and attach significant penalties for any breaches.

“These recommendations accord with those already being flagged by Dr Emerson and will work to start levelling the playing field for growers,” said Mr Burnett.

“But it will all be for nothing if the ACCC isn’t appropriately empowered and resourced to act as a tough cop on the beat.

“The incentives and drive everyday within supermarkets and Bunnings to deliver ever greater profits to shareholders at the expense of consumers and growers has to be met, not just by big penalties for breaching the Food and Grocery Code and other Competition Law, but by the very real prospect of getting caught.

“So, along with many customers and supermarket suppliers, the Council is calling on the Federal government in its Budget next week to deliver a substantial, ongoing investment in the ACCC to deliver on its new monitoring and compliance expectations.

 

For more rural news, click here.

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Local News

Refinement of Future Drought Fund welcomed by farmers

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Refinement of Future Drought Fund welcomed by farmers

 

Farmers have welcomed an announcement by the Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Rockhampton today regarding the next phase of the Future Drought Fund (FDF).

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President, David Jochinke, said the FDF was central to making producers more resilient in the face of current and future droughts.

“Supporting long-term resilience through initiatives and programs like those funded by the FDF has never been more important.

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“Having been up and running for several years it makes sense to continually review the FDF and ensure we’re making the most of that investment.

“The Prime Minister being in Rockhampton to make today’s announcement hopefully demonstrates that drought resilience is front of mind for this Government, especially given the dry conditions being faced by producers in the West and Tasmania,” Mr Jochinke said.

Mr Jochinke called out specific areas where today’s announcement aligns with suggestions put forward by farmer advocates and the Productivity Commission.

“We’re pleased to see the continuation of the Farm Business Resilience Program. Sound financial planning is one of the most powerful tools we have to prepare for drought, and we know that program has helped thousands of farmers sharpen up their preparation.

“We’re also pleased to see a review of the Drought Hubs and more investment in overall monitoring and evaluation of the FDF.  This is something we’ve called for to ensure we’re seeing tangible outcomes for the sector.

“I know that with Brent Finlay in the Chair at the FDF, that focus on delivering for farmers will be central to that review process.”

Mr Jochinke stressed however that while FDF changes were welcome, the sector couldn’t ignore a range of adverse policies that would be clouding the PM’s visit to Rockhampton this week.

“If the Government was fair dinkum about the resilience of Aussie farmers, it would urgently scrap harmful policies like the Biosecurity Protection Levy or the phase out of live sheep exports.

“It would also stop denying justice to the victims of the 2011 live cattle export ban and settle that long-running class action.

“Giving with one hand and taking with another doesn’t really get us anywhere,” Mr Jochinke concluded.

 

For more rural news, click here.

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