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Rural News

State’s best farming land under threat

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State’s best farming land under threat

Farmers on the state’s best agricultural land have faced years of uncertainty because of complex red tape that threatens food production.

New analysis from NSW Farmers revealed a cloud over ongoing farm production on two-thirds of State Significant Agricultural Land because of conflicting mapping and land use definitions from the NSW Government.

NSW Farmers Vice President Rebecca Reardon said there was an urgent need for clarity and co-ordination from government so farmers could get on with the job of growing food and fibre without worrying about inaccurate maps and indecipherable restrictions.

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“It’s simply not good enough for government to slap a restrictive map layer nearly the size of Tasmania over the state’s best farmland, and then drag their feet for over two-and-a-half years failing to give farmers clear guidelines on what they can and can’t do on their land,” Mrs Reardon said.

“This is why we’re calling for a truly independent, fully-resourced Agriculture Commission to call out this sort of nonsense and be a source of truth to pull government agencies back into line.”

According to the data, more than half a million hectares (545,308Ha) of the state’s best farmland was listed as containing critically endangered ecological communities and at the same time was covered in petroleum exploration licenses. Only 30 per cent of State Significant Agricultural Land had no competing land uses listed.

Under state laws there were fines of up to $1.65 million for corporations or $330,000 for individuals for breaching environmental protections, but the guidelines on what continuing agricultural uses would be permitted in listed zones was years overdue.

“It’s time governments recognised they need to work with farmers rather than tying them up with spools of red tape,” Mrs Reardon said.

“Australia experienced a 14 per cent decline in land used for food and fibre production between 1973 and 2017, a loss of about 106 million hectares.

“We’ve got politicians talking about strategic plans to retain important food and fibre production lands and ‘avoid land use conflicts’ but the reality is we’ve got more – not less – conflict.”

Facts

  • Total State Significant Agricultural Land: 9,425,481Ha
  • SSAL covered in Petroleum Exploration Licenses that also contain Critically Endangered Ecological Communities: 545,308Ha
  • SSAL covered in Petroleum Exploration Licenses: 64,466Ha
  • SSAL containing Critically Endangered Ecological Communities: 5,969,891Ha
  • Remaining SSAL: 2,845,816Ha

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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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