Attitude defies adversity

Rural Australia's "can do" attitude is what helps it overcome the daily hurdles...

IF you only read the headlines in this week’s rural news coverage, you’d think Australian farmers should just pack up and move to the city, or take a job in car manufacturing.

Public enemy number one, Animals Australia, reported alleged breaches of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) for sheep sold for slaughter around the religious festival of sacrifice, Eid al Adha, in the Middle East.

The animal rights group remains bitterly determined to drive a stake through the heart of the $1 billion per year live export trade, by exposing alleged “cruelty” to livestock no longer owned by Australian farmers, perpetrated by citizens in foreign countries operating under their own domestic laws and regulations.

Ongoing ESCAS breaches will endanger the future of Australian sheep exports to the lucrative Middle East markets or cattle to other destinations.

But those countries will probably still find suitable supplies from other countries, less vigilant about animal welfare standards.

On Tuesday, a devastating outbreak of poultry specific H7 Avian Influenza was confirmed in a flock of 400,000 layer hens near Young in NSW.

The outbreak prompted a phone call from the new Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to console the farm owners after their property was quarantined to cull birds remaining in the flock, in line with national agreements.

Last weekend, Minister Joyce spent time in northern Queensland meeting with farm groups and cattle producers who are facing severe seasonal conditions, with more than 60 per cent of the State drought declared.

He’s now trying to push an emergency response plan through cabinet, to re-jig the $420 million farm finance package to assist drought stricken producers to save their livestock from dire feed shortages.

In the West, the Commercial Egg Producers Association of WA said it was seeking a meeting with Woolworths and Minister Joyce to discuss the retail giant’s plan to phase out caged eggs sold in-store by 2018.

The Commercial Egg Producers accused the retail giant of restricting consumer choice and ignoring producers’ needs and multi-million dollar investments in supply chain improvements in recent years.

Rising labour and electricity costs, coupled with a flood of cheap foreign imported product, were blamed on McCain Foods announcing the closure of its Penola potato processing plant in December, which will see 59 jobs axed.

McCain Foods regional president Louis Wolthers said in just 10 years, imports of cheaper processed potatoes had risen from 10,000 tonnes to 130,000 tonnes.

He said the industry was “unsustainable in the long term” due to increasing costs and surplus capacity, which all contributed to the company’s closure decision.

“Cheaper potato imports are seriously threatening the future of the processing industry in Australia and will place further cost pressures on Australia’s growers,” he said.

Firebrand Queensland Independent Bob Katter said the McCain’s potato factory closure was “another nail in the coffin of Australian jobs and industry”.

He said it added to other high profile food processing facility shutdowns like the Rosella tomato soup and sauce factory and Heinz factories, while the SPC Goulburn Valley and Simplot factories are “struggling to survive”.

“Temporary tariffs need to be immediately enforced on the flood of cheap imports which are squeezing locals off the shelves and threatening the viability of Australian food producers,” he said.

A leaked report outlined the widespread economic damage facing the Goulburn Valley in Victoria if leading fruit processor SPC Ardmona fails to receive a $50 million support package ($25 million each from state and federal government).

The Essential Economics report said the Goulburn Valley would lose 2000 jobs and $165 million a year from the local economy, while Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie said “devastation would be wrought on growers and their families” if the facility closed.

But she said safeguards would give SPC Ardmona “time for innovation and adjustment”.

“Governments have supported car manufacturing to the tune of about $10 billion over seven years, while agriculture subsidies remain very low compared to international standards,” she said.

During the week, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) called on the federal government to prioritise finalisation of free trade agreements with key markets like Korea, Japan and China to provide commercial outcomes for the entire agricultural industry.

“We, and our members, are becoming increasingly concerned that our competitors are gaining advantages over Australian farmers in key markets such as Korea and Japan,” NFF president Duncan Fraser said.

However, at the RIRDC Rural Women’s Awards night in Canberra on Wednesday, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women – WA Senator Michaelia Cash – made a speech that probably didn’t attract the headlines it deserved.

Senator Cash summed up why rural Australia is so strong and resilient, and of course that strength of character is largely due to the “can do” attitude of its women.

The Senator’s speech referred to a discussion earlier in the day with some strong rural women, who set her straight about the challenges they face.

“They said, ‘we don’t face any challenges - something’s put in front of us, it’s an obstacle and we overcome it’,” Senator Cash said.

It was a timely reminder of the attitude that keeps Australian agriculture rolling on, despite the daily hurdles thrown up in front of it.

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Mary G
20/10/2013 5:48:38 AM

"but those countries will probably still find suitable supplies from other countries, less vigilant about animal welfare standards." It's an admission of cruelty, and of Australia joining into lower global animal welfare. Like New Zealand, we should not participate in something that is morally and ethically wrong and unconsciousable. What "other" countries do can be exposed if we withdraw. Governments are to blame for offering lucrative rewards and a financial future in the live export industry, and recklessly supporting it.
Michael B
20/10/2013 6:53:41 PM

Colin, How can you call for protective tariffs and free trade agreements in the same breath. These are mutually exclusive concepts. You cannot have it both ways.
21/10/2013 8:21:25 PM

Michael B: The Yanks don't seem to have a problem with it.
Cattle Advocate
22/10/2013 5:39:21 AM

BLE wants a vegan world. Australia is leading the world in improving processing standards not only in the growing LE herd but in LE country domestic herds. Any mention of the genocide that will hit our TE herd if BLE gets its way is met with a butter wouldnt melt in its mouth level of indifference. BLE isnt about improving human rights in foreign countries so animal welfare standards can follow, BLE is about big noting the '' Perpendicular Pro Noun '' as Sir Humphrey would say.
22/10/2013 6:01:37 AM

'....exposing alleged “cruelty” to livestock no longer owned by Australian farmers, perpetrated by citizens in foreign countries operating under their own domestic laws and regulations...' Isn't that the point Colin? That we are sending animals to countries where there are no laws with respect to what happens to animals. We are in the position to determine the treatment these animals receive and yet we continue to send animals into hell holes. Sadly, Animals Australia does need to be the regulator Colin when our own DAFF and the indutsry cannot. We know it is cruel and it should be stopped
Pathetic from a meat eater
23/10/2013 7:50:41 PM

Dear of dear, more emotional clap trap from the indifferent, emotional, arrogant, ignorant and pathetic. The group who have secured more improvements to this vile greed driven trade is Animals Australia. You should be thanking them.
Cattle Advocate
24/10/2013 5:07:02 AM

QLD's Barb Dixon has been looking for cattle agistment for 12 mths ''It's just unbelievable.Our neighbours had cattle on agistment and it ran out, so they have bought their cattle back home.They are in the same situation. They have got no feed, hardly any water.'' BLE attacks our TE cattle that are sent by boat not truck for processing to the same standard as down south. If BLE sees animals=humans why hasnt it commented on the plight of millions of kids in Syria,or the horrible death of a student there recently, she had 70pc bomb burns? is there a bankable alternative to LE in our TE?
Katrina Love
30/10/2013 2:28:32 PM

How bizarre that Animals Australia, the only organisation seemingly looking out for all these animals that farming Australia professes to care so deeply about; the only organisation exposing serious breaches of ESCAS and horrific treatment of Australian sheep, cattle and goats, is referred to as "public enemy number one"... oh of course - OK to care about your anmials as long as it doesn't actually interfere with profit or convenience.
Canberra CommentFairfax Agricultural Media Canberra correspondent Colin Bettles tackles the big national rural and agricultural issues which will impact regional and rural Australians.


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