Ag left in the lurch

Timing is everything - and that's exactly what farmers haven't got

THE sad truth is that outside of paying lip-service to clean, green pastures and the joys of feeding Asia, most politicians are hell-bent on letting agriculture find its own way through a quagmire of regulation and bad debt.

About 20 producer representatives, from across the broad range of commodities, met with the main parties and crossbench MPs and senators in Canberra recently before independent Bob Katter tabled a private member's bill demanding legislative changes to establish a reconstruction and development board to remedy the dire situation in which agriculture exists.

While the crisis meetings - which included one-on-one discussions with Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan, Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig and their Opposition counterparts Joe Hockey and John Cobb - presented a cohesive face of agriculture, the Rural Debt Roundtable Working Group is fighting a rearguard action.

Mr Katter's bill assumes the Reserve Bank has the necessary regulatory powers to "accommodate the board and alleviate agricultural debt".

It proposes that, in "circumstances of uncertainty", a sustainable basis for development can be established.

But at a time when the $420-million Farm Finance Package - designed to immediately offer relief to farmers looking at a black hole - is the subject of a spat between federal and state governments, what hope is there in another piece of legislation?

Roundtable working group chairman Rowell Walton made clear the urgency: entire districts in Western Australia are up for sale, reflecting the extent of debt accumulated, at $66 billion and climbing.

He said the Katter bill would enable debt reconstruction and "breathing space" for farmers.

Even if the RBA comes on board and politicians stop their bickering long enough to see clearly that without a viable agricultural industry region Australia will fall over, timing is everything - and that's exactly what farmers haven't got.

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Jen from the bush
28/06/2013 6:13:03 AM

Pray tell me how can the farm package give relief? It is only available to farmers who are deemed viable. We are already overburdened with debt so who would be deemed viable enough to be given MORE debt? The interest rate is marginally lower than bank rates and only available for a 5 years and this is supposed to save farmers. You have to believe in fairies!
28/06/2013 10:43:07 AM

Quagmire of regulation is a consequence of meddling politicians and beaurecrats.Bad debt is the direct responsibility of those who incurred it.Nobody forced anybody to incur the debt.It should not be dumped onto others.
28/06/2013 10:56:13 AM

Exactly, pollies have failed agriculture. How can this be when the Nats have mostly held the balance of power for decades? Farmers desperately need to abandon the Nats and become an unpredictable vioce that no one party can rely upon. The Nats have failed, but still get rewarded for their failure.
Jezza yass
28/06/2013 11:27:10 AM

Well said bg
28/06/2013 11:40:43 AM

Australian farmers took a safe risk and invested in a growing, viable market. Then this government fired a torpedo into it, just to appease the sensibilities of a hand full of radical extremists. They created this fiasco, they can pay to fix it.
28/06/2013 1:44:26 PM

Gabriel. I know its politically correct to blame the current government. Please check the record of how agriculture fared when Howard was in power and the Nats held the balance. Look at the decrease in family farm nos. commodity prices, bankruptcies, etc. The trend has been there for 40 years or more. We have serious problems. Don't expect Tony to rescue us, he has a lot more powerful figures to appease. Just like Labor, really.
28/06/2013 1:55:38 PM

Spot on Gabriel! We could look after our own debt, except the Government regularly performs economic genocide upon us. I still haven't reduced any debt from the drought because of the actions of this Government in destroying our livestock markets and consequently mutton and beef prices. How am I going to fare in the next drought? It’s not just the large actions against us, it’s the death by small cuts as well. Look at this quad bike rubbish they want to implement, NLIS for cattle and now sheep. Everything they do is destroying our profitability.
100% Farmer
28/06/2013 7:42:23 PM

Way off Gabriel. You cannot blame anyone but yourself if you find you are in debt. We all know how fickle the ag market is, and how stupid to continue on expecting the handouts we receive to prop ourselves up. It is not the job of Govt or the community to pay our debts.We choose to be farmers and we should learn to cope like anyone else.
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.


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