Governments must act fairly in ag policy space

Governments must act fairly in ag policy space

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The cumulative impact of government policies and the weight of consumer expectations run the risk of becoming insurmountable.

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The Senate Regional and Rural Affairs Transport References Committee recently tabled its final report on its inquiry into the Queensland Government's Reef regulations.

While LNP members wrote a dissenting report, the Committee made no attempt to relieve farmers operating in the reef catchments of the excessive regulatory burden the laws place on them, and many will understandably be disillusioned and deflated by this.

For some farm businesses, this environmental policy shift is challenging enough, but when you consider the cumulative impact of government policies across portfolios, the challenges become even greater.

Over the past decade, the cost of irrigation water has more than doubled as has the cost of electricity used to pump it.

Conversely, the area of active cropping land in Queensland has fallen to its lowest level, while the number of irrigation businesses have reduced from 9402 in 2009-10 to 4912 currently, and the amount of irrigation water taken from pipelines and channels has fallen by a third.

This is despite ongoing drought conditions across Queensland and irrigation being a highly efficient and productive form of farming.

Moreover, the sector is experiencing productivity, profitability and competitiveness challenges. Namely, managing high production costs, the erosion of the right to farm, excessive green and red tape, high rates, and climate variability.

Furthermore, farm businesses have virtually no ability to offset these costs or negotiate better contract terms as evidenced by a recent ACCC inquiry.

So, it's no surprise that the 2019 Queensland Rural Debt Survey identified that a total of 18,232 borrowers owe a cumulative debt of $19.10 billion, up 10.75 per cent from 2017.

Individually, each of these policy reforms may seem reasonable. Collectively, it is a very different picture.

The cumulative impact of government policies and the weight of consumer expectations run the risk of becoming insurmountable.

Governments must act fairly and with good governance when implementing agricultural policy. Our sector is important and in order to continue producing high quality food, fibre and foliage, we deserve a fair go.

- Allan Dingle, Queensland Farmers' Federation president

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