NFF chief briefs WA on major rural issues

30 Oct, 2002 10:00 PM

NATIONAL Farmers Federation president Peter Corish made a flying visit to WA this week to brief growers on key issues that will affect agriculture in the next 12 months.

He discussed property rights, trade issues, the sale of Telstra, the drought and genetically modified crops at a series of meetings across the state.

Mr Corish, who was hosted by the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, had just returned from Bolivia, where he was part of a 16-country farm leaders group that advised on world trade strategies.

He was heading to Geneva next week for an International Federation of Farm Leaders conference.

"I believe there is a real future for agriculture in Australia - we are only scratching the surface," Mr Corish said.

"But there are three key factors to ensure that it is sustainable. That is profitability, environmental sustainability and viable rural communities.

"Trade has been a priority issue for NFF for some time.

"Progress in trade reform moves slowly but I think the next round World Trade Organisation talks is the best chance for achieving reforms.

"Agriculture is on the agenda for the first time and it is a real opportunity to make some changes."

Mr Corish said property rights were another priorty issue for the NFF.

He said a federation taskforce had developed a framework which could be used to work out compensation for farmers who had been disadvantaged by property, water and land clearing issues.

"There is more and more pressure on agriculture to change farming practices from environmental management to local government," he said.

"At the moment, if you are forced to change your business you must carry the cost burden.

"But we believe that if it is in the community interest there should be some form of cost sharing.

"For instance, if farmers join salinity management programs, there should be funds available to assist.

"An NFF taskforce has developed a transparent framework which deals with water compensation and native vegetation issues.

"It is structured so that everyone involved understands the guidelines.

"It has gone before full Cabinet (of the Federal Government) and we are waiting to hear whether it will be signed off."

The NFF was preparing to review its position on the sale of Telstra, Mr Corish said.

"We would not consider supporting the sale of Telstra until there is equality in the services for rural and metropolitan Australia," he said.

"But the Liberals are committed to the sale and they could do it anyway.

"John Howard and John Anderson have shown they will listen on regional issues and it could be our best chance to get a good deal for rural users while they are in control.

"We have to look at our policy position.

"A deal would have to include money set aside to ensure equity of services or a funding base to improve resources and infrastructure in rural Australia."

Mr Corish said he had discussed the Farmhand drought relief scheme with organisers.

"It is a real recognition of the severity of the drought from urban Australia - with donations of $12 million," he said.

"There plan to set up management boards in each state. Barry Court will be a member of the WA board.

"It will target the most needy cases from a welfare point of view.

"They will decide what to target next when they work out how much money is left."



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