Ag's true value a hard sell

This is the fallout of a society disconnected from agriculture

SOMETHING is amiss in society when the people who grow our food don’t feel they can show off how that’s done without persecution.

Animal welfare, salinity, native vegetation and water use are just some issues for which farmers have been labelled as vandals or cowboys, but why?

It was farmers who recognised the need for – and implemented – windbreaks, ground cover, better animal handling techniques, conservation tillage and water efficiency, to name a few.

Governments of decades past encouraged farmers to clear land and develop country, but the governments of today have been quick to implement legislation which wins votes rather than balanced outcomes, and have a patchy history when it comes to working effectively with farmers.

This is the fallout of a society disconnected from agriculture that now tells farmers how to manage their land, animals and businesses. The end result has been draconian legislation, rather than government, or society, working together with farmers.

Last week’s shooting death at Croppa Creek has highlighted this in the worst possible way, but in doing so has brought simmering issues back into the spotlight.

The Native Vegetation Act is just one example.

In the past few years, we’ve seen farmers burn the original draft of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan due to its ridiculous water use expectations; Peter Spencer’s hunger strikes in a campaign for his “right to farm”, and snap bans on live exports to Indonesia in 2011 – the flow-on from which has negatively affected the entire Australian beef industry.

Farmers have now realised it is up to them to improve sustainability on their farms, across environmental, social and economic platforms.

Their understanding and skills as environmental managers is improving faster than any government.

At last week’s Yulgilbar Station field day at Baryulgil, many farmers had something to say about the concept of social licence. This concept was viewed as the light in which society saw farmers, and whether society understood and accepted modern farming practices – and, in turn, affected policies.

The key message was that farmers had not been effective at telling their story and showing others what it meant to be a good farmer.

Until we can get do this, we will continue to face an uphill battle.

Andrew Norris

Andrew Norris

is the editor of The Land
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Dale Stiller
10/08/2014 4:57:35 AM

Good opinion piece Andrew.. You mentioned Peter Spencer, everyone needs to know that for all these years since the hunger strike he has been plugging away to bring an action in the highest courts in this country. The fighting fund managed by NFF have funded him for a while & placed a media ban on him; that's why no word has been getting out. But the fighting fund has dropped him in sight of the final court case at the end of this year which will determine his case and if successful will have significant benefits for all property owners that their rights can not be taken without compensation.
10/08/2014 12:04:02 PM

A Social Licence is required, not just by farmers, to operate with communities to supply and satisfy their needs. Everyone feels undervalued not just farmers, because society does not adequately recognise their contribution to the community. But perhaps farmers have a right to feel especially unappreciated because they produce food but the current currency is money, not value or empathy, certainly not sympathy, unless there is a drought or flood.
Ian Hampton
12/08/2014 7:32:20 PM

The fate of native vegetation legislation lies with the outcome of Spencer v. Commonwealth of Australia which has been set down for a full hearing of the Federal Court from November 24 this year. Spencer's case will finally be heard after 7 1/2 years of effort on his part opposed by bloody minded court room tactics by the Australian Government Solicitor representing Australian Governments of both sides. The case centres on the right of the Australian Commonwealth to acquire carbon credits from farm land alienated by native vegetation legislation without compensating the farmers.
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.


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