Farmers are urging the Australian government to focus on agricultural policies for cost of living relief.
Over the last few months, federal policy makers have turned their attention to relieving the cost of living crisis. In response, Australia’s peak farming body is urging the government to prioritise the impact on producers and rural communities, to ensure the food and fibre industry can continue to provide for the country.
Feeding the future
President of the National Farmers’ Federation, David Jochinke, says current policies place unnecessary pressures on farmers. Without significant assistance, this could impact production and increase the price of produce on supermarket shelves.
“We’ve seen this government ignore the needs of the farm sector with policies that erode access to the basic ingredients of farming – from water, to workers, markets for animal exports and even agricultural land,” he explains.
“The Government’s water buybacks plan rammed through Parliament last year threatens to decimate over $850 million in farm production.”
The current Water Amendment Bill, passed in December last year, will see the Government recover 450 GL of water from the Murray-Darling Basin. Farmers are concerned that this could have serious socio-economic consequences for rural communities as the Murray-Darling Basin spreads across much of Australia and is home to 2.6 million people. It also contributes to the production of $24 billion in local food and fibre. Many farms rely on irrigation for production, so less water results in less produce and job opportunities.
According to David Jochinke, however, this is just the beginning.
“Inaction on worker shortages has left farmers choosing not to plant crops, and processors operating at reduced capacity.
“Tens of thousands of kilometres of transmission lines and planned carbon offsets need to be carefully managed so we don’t take precious farmland out of production forever.
“We need to be looking at the cumulative impact these policies will have on our farm sector, now and for future generations.”
Cost of living relief has been at the forefront of national policies over the last few months. This includes a $206 million energy support package for low-income households in NSW, as well as a tax cut to all Australian taxpayers from July of this year.
However, the National Farmers’ Federation asserts that more focus needs to be placed on rural and farming communities. They encourage the recent investigation into the conduct of major supermarket chains, which highlights the importance of protecting farmers and customers.
“It’s great to see the Government starting to look at the supermarkets to make sure farmers and consumers are getting a fair deal,” says Mr Jochinke.
“But there are other players clipping the ticket, so these inquiries need to look at that whole supply chain.”
He explains that farmers are the backbone of production, and need as much support as possible.
“We know the best way to keep food prices stable is to keep farmers farming, not take away the basics they need to grow food and fibre.
“If the Government is serious about fixing the cost of living, it needs to take a serious look at how its own policies are impacting food and fibre production.”