Plea to governments for farming’s future

Kevin Borg.
Kevin Borg. Daily Mercury

ROME wasn't built in a day but it burnt to the ground in just a few hours. This is the message primary producers are attempting to convey to state and federal governments, when dealing with issues affecting our viability. Governments are advocating doubling food production by the year 2040.

How do they think this is attainable, when agriculture already struggles for sustainability under the weight of high - and ever increasing - prices for water, electricity, fertilisers, chemicals and fuel?

Electricity and water are, in a time of drought conditions, costing irrigated growers exorbitant amounts just to keep their crops alive, let alone continue growing.

Primary producers must also continuously work through a minefield of inappropriate legislation in transport and environment, which also hinders attempts to remain viable. If we do not have some precise and meaningful action in the shorter term, we will soon see the confidence built by the newly-elected governments damaged within a short time frame.

Canegrowers Queensland has joined with other agricultural industries to strive for a sensible outcome on the costs associated with pumping irrigation water. Failure to effectively regulate has seen electricity costs for irrigators double in the past seven years.

We are united with others in working with State Energy and Water Supply Minister Mark McArdle to develop a specific irrigation tariff better suited to the requirements of irrigators. The State Government has been looking at introducing special irrigation tariffs to ease the burden of electricity costs. Electricity and water are, in a time of drought conditions, costing irrigated growers exorbitant amounts just to keep their crops alive, let alone continue growing. Under these conditions, growers need swift action to relieve this cost burden.

In transport, agriculture has been forced to operate under the same legislation made to fit national road rule guidelines relative to an industry where long distance hauling is the order of the day. Agriculture (and particularly the sugar industry) is not a long haul situation. The Queensland Government has begun a review of transport rules and regulations, intending to reduce red tape for farmers. It is critical that an agricultural category is developed that more realistically reflects the actual and short haul use of farming vehicles.

The regulations around fatigue management and vehicle construction apply to the transport industry but require conditioning to an agricultural category where the needs of agriculture are addressed, so we can maximise productivity by using existing road transport equipment. High Flotation Tyres have been a priority issue for Canegrowers Queensland for some time and we will continue to advocate moving the permitted use of the HFTs into regulation, providing a permanent solution without permits. While Fuel Tax Credits have been regularly reviewed, they are critical to maintaining primary production. We look forward to the new Federal Government upholding its commitment to maintaining this system.

The sugar industry continues to work through issues with the State Government surrounding its environmental sustainability, in an attempt to demonstrate the industry can manage its environmental affairs within an agreed framework. We ask state and federal governments to urgently progress these issues to boost confidence and ensure investment in all primary production is reinvigorated and their vision for doubling food production by 2040 becomes more achievable.

Topics:  canegrowers comment electricity charges irrigation kevin borg mackay canegrowers sugar

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