Friday 7 March, 2014
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce last week announced a $320 million drought relief package - a suite of measures offering financial, social and mental health for farmers, their families and communities currently in the grips of severe drought. In the lead up to this announcement, we thank members, farmers, journalists and Australian organisations for their continued efforts in making drought and, more broadly Australian agriculture, a matter of priority for the Government.
The package which is both fiscal and fair, and for the current drought at the current time, has been welcomed by many farmers across drought-stricken areas. The measures proposed by the Government will address several issues faced by farmers in drought, including rising debt levels, capacity to make household payments, limited water for livestock, personal stress and managing pest animals. Further information on the package is available here.
While many of the measures proposed by the NFF were included in the package, some of the measures were not, such as rural workforce assistance and the delivery of independent professional advice. Importantly, the NFF will continue to focus advocacy efforts on a long-term drought policy reform. For more, see our media release.
The NFF has this week welcomed comments made by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to accelerate a free trade agreement with Australia, raising prospects of a finalised deal by the end of the year that could provide significant gains to Australian agriculture. In the lead up to this, the NFF continues to call for commercially-meaningful outcomes and cautions the Government against signing a deal at any cost.
More broadly, China continues to offer emerging opportunities for Australian commodities, in particular for our red meat, dairy, rice, grains and sugar sectors. In 2013, Australian sheepmeat exports to China rose by 35% and mutton by 510%, and beef exports have reached a record of 108,199 tonnes to start this year.
Amidst these highlights, Australia has been at a competitive disadvantage in China over the past years, with key competitor, New Zealand, having secured preferential tariff access via NZ-China FTA established in 2008. As such, the NFF will continue to support a free trade agreement - like those in negotiations with China, Japan and the TPP - that takes a holistic view of Australian agriculture and does not exclude key agricultural commodities. The NFF will call for commercially meaningful trade gains and will not support second-rate trade agreements that do not deliver returns for Australian farmers. For more, read our release.
NFF CEO Matt Linnegar addressed fellow industry leaders and key decision makers on the competitiveness and profitability of the farm sector at the inaugural ABARES Outlook 2014 Conference held in Canberra this week. Looking at competitiveness within the farm sector, Matt spoke about the need to improve efficiencies, encourage further investment in Australian agriculture and also called for stronger collaboration and unity across the food and fibre supply chain.
Reiterating the importance of market access, Matt indicated that Asia continues to be perceived as a pot of gold for Australian commodities, yet stated that any benefits from the 'Asian Century' would remain on hold until there was a concerted push for free trade agreements. Matt also encouraged a greater commitment from the Government by investing in rural infrastructure, increasing R&D funding, reducing red tape and working alongside those who know our industry best.
In addition, Matt outlined that the agricultural industry were equally responsible for making its own decisions to empower its potential. Reinforcing the view that industry needs to be at the forefront of innovation and strive for better efficiencies within and beyond the farm gate.
As momentum builds for the case to repeal the Carbon Tax in the Senate this week, the NFF reiterates the case that the tax imposes significant costs on Australian farmers, placing the agricultural sector's competitive position at risk. Agriculture remains a heavily-affected sector due to the flow-on costs allocated to transport and electricity, and by the pass-through costs from agricultural processors.
Farmers are at the frontline of delivering environmental outcomes on behalf of the Australian community owning, managing and caring for 61 percent of Australia's land mass. Australians continue to play their part by soil sequestration through minimum till farming; revegetation of land and waterways; and methane management of livestock and effluent ponds.
To read more about how farmers are leading the way in emission reductions without the Carbon Tax, see here.
The NFF has this week issued its first Agribusiness Loan Monitor for 2014, showing that bank interest rates have held firm over the last quarter remaining at 2.5%. The NFF's loan monitor compares movements in agribusiness loan rates of the major banks and other financial institutions - shedding light on bank rates and products. The tool is designed to help farmers and rural business operators to make decisions regarding banking products. Take a look at our loan monitor here.
Want to know more about NFF Committees and Taskforces? What Committees are there? What's the difference between a Taskforce and Committee? How does Membership work? Am I represented? Learn more here.
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