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Rural News

Pollies tackle tough topics at regional debates

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Pollies tackle tough topics at regional debates

Potholes, solar panels and compulsory land acquisition are some of the biggest issues to emerge from NSW Farmers’ election debate series, which is set to heat up in the final two weeks.

The energy transition and its impact on country communities has emerged as a major issue during four debates hosted by NSW Farmers, alongside road and rail repair, water security and climate policies.

Ministers, shadow ministers and minor parties faced tough questioning during the debates in Goulburn, Bega, Armidale and Muswellbrook, and NSW Farmers Head of Policy Annabel Johnson said people wanted to know how the next government would make things better.

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“This is going to be a very tight election with the cost of living crisis hurting everyone, families and farmers alike, and they’re wanting to know what will be done about it,” Ms Johnson said.

“Roads range from ordinary to terrible across the state, and at the same time there’s this huge land development pressure – people are feeling like things are being done to their communities without any consultation.

“For those people who have their land compulsorily acquired for big new projects, there’s a real question around whether they’re being treated fairly and getting paid enough.”

The community of Merriwa, in the Upper Hunter, was a prime example of the pressures facing rural areas, Ms Johnson said. Situated on the Golden Highway between Newcastle and Dubbo, Merriwa will become a major thoroughfare for trucks and workers building renewable energy projects. Locals raised concerns about schoolchildren crossing highway to access sporting fields, and feared Sydney-style traffic jams without urgent intervention.

“Locals told the politicians that Merriwa isn’t benefitting from all this new development, but it’s bearing the burden, and it’s just one of many towns facing similar pressures,” Ms Johnson said.

“Both the government and opposition admitted there was a problem here, but it’s not clear what the solution will be.

“It’s clear we need a better method of community engagement when these big projects are proposed, and a better system of scoping out what the full impacts are.”

The issue of people feeling unfairly treated when their land was acquired was an important issue for NSW Farmers and voters, with concerns people weren’t receiving a fair value for their property. Ms Johnson said NSW Farmers had called for reform of the Just Terms Compensation Act to be more suitable for rural land interventions in its election platform.

With the cost of producing food and fibre skyrocketing as inflation bites all Australians, Ms Johnson said there had to be a dedicated focus on stronger regions and securing agricultural production from the next government.

“Country communities grow Sydney’s food, and they want to know they won’t be left behind as governments tackle economic pressures and a changing climate,” Ms Johnson said.

“People have said they want to be treated with respect and dealt with fairly, and I’d say that message will come through loud and clear at our final two debates.

“NSW Farmers is telling all parties they will need to expand their focus beyond Sydney to win these crucial votes and form government.”

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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.

 

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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.

 

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NFF delivers 17 priorities for the Federal Budget to advance agriculture

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NFF delivers 17 priorities for the Federal Budget to advance agriculture

 

Australia’s peak farming organisation has put forward 17 investment recommendations for the Federal Government to invest in agriculture and support the sector’s sustainable growth ahead of the budget.

National Farmers’ Federation President David Jochinke said next week’s budget was a chance for the Government to lay the foundation for growth and productivity in a challenging economic environment and when an increasing number of producers are experiencing dry conditions.

“Agriculture has shown a million times over it is a powerhouse in the Australian economy, and by supporting the industry, the Government can help ensure the sector underpins the success and resilience of Australia for decades to come.”

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The NFF’s pre-budget submission provides 17 investment recommendations across three broad themes:

  • Increasing agricultural productivity
  • Securing Australia’s agricultural workforce
  • Promoting and enhancing Australian agriculture’s sustainability

“Our recommendations encompass a spectrum of initiatives, from bolstering regional infrastructure to enhancing biosecurity, fostering innovation in agricultural data to preparing for droughts, supporting farm safety, and creating pathways for the next generation of farmers.

“Key recommendations include investing $1 billion over four years into regional infrastructure to enhance Australia’s international freight supply chains and $2 billion over four years to support complementary measures in the Murray-Darling Basin.

“We also want to see the Government commit to the farm gap-year program AgCAREERSTART, an initiative boasting an 83% retention rate of graduates staying on in agriculture.

“Investing real dollars into these ideas will form a strategic web that intertwines economic growth, environmental stewardship, social wellbeing, and regional resilience.”

Mr Jochinke said the farm sector would be watching closely as the Treasurer handed down the Budget on May 14.

“Last year’s budget contained a nasty surprise for farmers – the Biosecurity Protection Levy.

“We hope the Government has realised it’s much better to work with farmers so we can strengthen a sector all Australians rely on.

“Not only can the government back farmers by supporting our recommendations, the budget is the opportune time to strike a line through harmful policies like the biosecurity levy and the live export ban.

“These are smart and sensible ideas that will allow agriculture to charge on towards its $100 billion goal.”

 

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