Last Friday was the deadline for submissions to the federal government’s agricultural Green Paper, which will magically morph into an eventual White Paper.
I was disappointed with the Green Paper because it promised to redefine the way we look at agriculture in this country but failed to do anything other than fiddle around at the margins.
Agriculture’s demise in our country needs to be honestly assessed so everyone has no doubt as to what the problems are, such as:
a) 100 years ago farmers received up to 90 per cent of the retail price of their produce, now it’s closer to 10 per cent in most cases;
b) Family farmers have been squeezed off the land in their thousands, all the while with governments chanting the mantra ‘Get big or get out’ this presupposes that eventually we’ll end up with just a single large farm on our island continent;
c) Aside from corporate and irrigated properties, very few farms can afford full-time workers these days despite the fact the wages for rural employees are among the lowest of any sector;
d) This lack of employees on farms has hit hard at the social fabric of country towns where the bulk of workers used to be in rural industry;
e) The cost of red and green tape is excessively high and the administrative task is enormous, placing greater burdens on operations with less people to do the work than ever before
It was upsetting that the Green Paper didn’t acknowledge the need for farmers to have access to a range of innovative new crops which could make them a profit, improve their soil structure and have the potential to create downstream processing and manufacturing jobs.
Macquarie 2100’s submission was blunt and to the point about all these problems and the fact that successive governments have ignored the basics.
My basic tenet is that if farmers don’t have crops they can make decent money from, none of the other issues floated in the Green Paper matter.
Aside from cotton in the years where the price is okay and there’s available water, not many farmers these days get much of a margin from any mainstream crops and the national graphs showing farmer profitability show that picture only too well.
The figures showing the hugely escalating cost of inputs have been on a steep upward curve while the line depicting the prices being paid for say, wheat, hasn’t much changed since the 1970s.
A good mate who’s very successful in the ag game told me the other day that if he hadn’t paid off most of his plant after a run of decent years, he’d be broke in six months as things had gotten so tough.
This is not the way it’s meant to be, especially as we as a nation have so many things within our control which we can change for the better.
The problem is, the people raking in the profits from the sweat of our farmers and the utilisation of our immensely valuable soil and water resources are making bucket loads by cutting the guts out of farmer margins, they have the lobbying ear of governments and they don’t want anything to change.
I think the Green Paper should have only been open to comment from the people involved directly with the land, all the big institutions are in it for their shareholders, and that means quarterly corporate profits – not what’s good for the farmers around Trangie or the displaced farm workers in Narromine and Warren.
Give them their own paper, call it the Red Paper to illustrate the blood they’ve sucked out of rural Australia, and read it weighted with the knowledge that the view from a Sydney skyscraper, or the vistas from their harbour-side mansions, are a starkly different prism to that which sees crops dying from a lack of rain, or from the ute window feeding livestock for the second year in a row.
There’s far too much top-down influence in the ag game, and if they’re the only ones talking, that’s the only game we’ll be playing.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.