IN THIS SECTION:
Farm Business and Productivity
Ensuring Australian farmers can get on with the business of farming is a key priority for the NFF.
Research and development
The NFF is of the view that relevant agricultural Research& Development (R&D) underpins innovation to produce better quality and more competitively priced food and fibre. The NFF fully supports the current model for rural R&D, co-funded through government contributions and agricultural industry levies.
Continuous productivity improvements are required to maintain the sector’s competitiveness. Key to advancing these improvements in productivity and profitability is the generation of new knowledge and technology delivered through R&D. Such R&D breakthroughs within agricultural production systems and supply chains can subsequently deliver better quality and more competitively priced food and fibre to consumers.
To spur innovation in agriculture, the NFF supports the following measures:
- Maintain the broad architecture of the rural research and development corporation model, including government contribution matching industry levies.
- Enable regulatory settings such as intellectual property protection and access to technologies for private entities wishing to engage in R&D research.
- Build an attractive investment environment for innovative public-private partnership investments by providing investment and tax incentives.
- Undertake a cross-jurisdictional review of agricultural extension services, investigating how new research can be rolled out to the agricultural industry in general.
The NFF recognises that drought is a recurrent management risk for Australian agriculture. However, the lack of a consistent policy approach has led to confusion among farmers about their eligibility to drought relief funds and has impeded on preparation and management of drought.
Drought is frequent in parts of Australia and climate change is likely to exacerbate drought conditions, making it necessary that preparation and management of drought take precedence over drought relief. Parts of Eastern Australia are currently in severe drought, with many producers heading into their fourth year without income. Government policy needs to facilitate preparation for future drought events while being as transparent and consistent as possible.
The 2015 Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper addressed the need for change in drought policy, highlighting the importance of providing certainty around drought and risk management for farming families and their businesses. Recent government programs provide financial counselling as well as mental health support to struggling farmers and their families, thus helping rural communities to better cope with drought conditions. Although the White Paper provides great solution for the short to medium term, there is need to develop a more cohesive framework for community in-drought support measures.
To support farmers to better manage drought, the NFF would suggest the following measures:
- Develop an adequately funded, holistic National Drought Policy that improves outcomes for farmers in drought preparedness, management and recovery.
- Establish a communications mechanism that helps farmers understand and access all drought support available across all Government sources.
- Improve the Bureau of Meteorology’s Rainfall Deficiency Analyser.
Also available are the NFF media releases re recent drought announcements: the May 2015 Release re further support for drought-affected communities and the April 2015 Release re NFF seeking solutions as drought tightens grip across Australia.
Reducing red tape
The NFF is dedicated to removing the unnecessary burden and costs of over-regulation on farmers. Duplicate and excessive bureaucratic red and green tape should be eliminated wherever possible to maximise the efficiency of the Australian farm sector.
The NFF 2016 submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into the regulatory burden on farm businesses noted the excessive regulation impacting upon Australian agriculture and made a number of recommendations as to how this can be reduced. To view this submission, please see here
The NFF believes that all rural and regional Australians are entitled to equal access to reliable and affordable telecommunications - and we maintain a constant 'watching brief’ to ensure that the Australian Government adequately meets the needs of people in country areas.
Telecommunications services, be it phone, mobile or internet, are of vital importance for farmers and rural businesses, and agriculture is a very technologically-savvy industry, yet the use of modern IT in rural Australia has lagged behind due to inadequacies in service and infrastructure.
The NFF is committed to ensuring that farming families, rural businesses and country communities have equal accessibility, reliability, quality and affordability in telecommunications.
To view the NFF Submission into the 2015 Telecommunications Review, please click here.
Rural debt and access to finance
Ensuring access to finance to support small businesses, including farm businesses, is of vital importance to the agricultural sector and rural communities, ensuring these businesses can continue to grow their contribution to employment and the economy.
At the same time, rural debt levels have increased significantly in the last decade – rising by over 85 percent since 2002-03. The rising debt is due in part to prolonged drought followed by flooding rains, and also investments in on-farm capital works as farmers look to improve productivity.
While these investments in capital works should hold farmers in good stead into the future, total farm debt levels at above $60 billion place the agricultural sector at considerable exposure to increasing credit costs. Should the banking sector withdraw its support of the agricultural sector and aggressively foreclose on rural debt, there is potential for regional land prices to fall.
Tightening monetary policies are also having an increasing impact on Australian farmers and posing challenges for the agricultural sector. The NFF believes there is a need to build competition and transparency in the banking sector, improve the understanding by the Reserve Bank of Australia of regional economic conditions, revisit tax based investment mechanisms for regional Australia, and build the education and awareness of risk management tools for farmers.
Modern and efficient infrastructure is essential to ensuing the agricultural supply chains Australian farmers rely on are internationally competitive. Increased and targeted public, private and end user investment is required to ensure the projects needed to maintain this competitiveness, spearheaded by the inland rail, are delivered in a timely and efficient manner.
The NFF has called for a sweeping strategic overhaul of Australia’s freight transport infrastructure. While overtures have been made towards this vision by Government, resources need to be available to ensure that the strategies and policy which exist on paper are turned into on-the-ground infrastructure.
Also available are media releases on recent infrastructure annoucements, including: the September 2015 Release on the Inland Rail Delivery Plan.
The responsible use, monitoring and storage of farm chemicals is of paramount importance to Australia's farmers, and must be consistently applied across state borders in line with community expectations about safety and sound environmental management.
The NFF represents one of the largest groups of legitimate chemical users in Australia. The NFF proposes and supports policies, programs and alliances that promote the safe and secure storage, handling, transport and sale of agricultural and veterinary chemicals from the place of manufacture through to the point of sale.
AgStewardship Australia was established in 2008 to develop and implement stewardship programs to reduce and manage waste for Australia's agricultural sector.
AgStewardship Australia is responsible for two of the most successful agricultural voluntary product stewardship programs in Australia, drumMUSTER®and ChemClear®, which collect and dispose of used chemical containers and unwanted crop protection and animal health chemicals.
To date, the AgStewardship programs have diverted more than 75 percent of packaging that would have otherwise gone to landfill, and safely disposed of approximately 350 tonnes of unwanted chemicals.
The NFF is a founding partner of AgStewardship Australia, along with CropLife Australia, the Australian Local Government Association, the Veterinary Manufacturers and Distributors Association and the Animal Health Alliance (Australia).
The NFF's taxation policy platform pursues an efficient tax system, which supports and facilitates the improving competitiveness of Australian agriculture.
The NFF recognises that all wealth creating sectors of the community have a responsibility to contribute to public goods, services and infrastructure – just as governments also have a responsibility to spend this money wisely by establishing taxation mechanisms to deliver public services across the community.
Taxation can also be a very powerful mechanism to influence behaviour, and, if used effectively, encourage positive outcomes for the economy, the environment and society.
The NFF believes the Government must carefully consider development of taxation-based mechanisms that complement and deliver equitable outcomes in areas such as climate change mitigation, drought preparedness, land use and environmental stewardship. It must also adhere to some overriding tax principles, such as avoiding taxing business adjustment, avoiding negative distortions, avoiding inflammatory outcomes and ensuring fairness and equality.
Biotechnology and Genetic Modification
New technologies and the improved use of available technologies - such a biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops - have assisted Australian farmers achieve efficiency and productivity gains, and have helped ensure Australian agriculture can remain competitive on international markets.
The NFF recognises the potential of biotechnology (including gene technology) as a valuable tool within agricultural production systems. The responsible and strategic application of biotechnology within Australian agriculture can result in significant benefits for Australian farmers, the environment, consumers and the Australian economy as a whole. Australian cotton growers, for example, have reduced their use of pesticides by over 90 percent over the last 10 years due to biotechnology and best management pest practices.
The NFF believes that Australian farmers should have the opportunity to adopt production methods best suited to their business needs - be that GM, conventional, organic or any combination of these methods - and that the production decisions of one farmer should not unreasonably impinge on the ability of another farmer to meet the requirements and expectations of their chosen market.
We support research and development into biotechnology, and believe that consumers, like farmers, should have the right to choose what sort of products they use and consume.
To ensure that all Australians have access to credible, balanced and science-based information in order to make informed decisions on biotechnology and gene technology, the NFF is a supporting member of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (formerly AgriFood Awareness Australia).
Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia
The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) is the national coordinating organisation for the Australian agricultural biotechnology sector and was established to pursue recognition of the current and potential benefits of agricultural biotechnology.
ABCA aims to ensure that the Australian farming sector can appropriately access and adopt this technology for the benefit of national and global food security, the nation’s farming sector, and the environment - helping to deliver a more sustainable and prosperous future for Australian agriculture.
Working broadly across the agriculture sector, ABCA is committed to providing quality, factual, science-based information about gene technology in agriculture. The NFF is a founding member of ABCA, along with AusBiotech, CropLife Australia and the Grains Research & Development Corporation.
For more, visit the ABCA website.
Fuel and energy
Fuel and energy are among the largest costs for Australian farmers, and the spike in fuel prices over the past decade has had a significant impact on the agricultural sector.
According to research by ABARES, the direct cost of fuel and lubricants is around eight to nine percent of all farm cash costs, with the majority of that cost being diesel. When this is broadened to indirect costs, energy and energy-dependent farm income costs (as a proportion of total farm input costs) increase to almost 50 percent for some major agricultural sectors. And, in just one year, the fuel costs for Australian farmers jumped 12 percent.
These costs, and their impact on farm competitiveness, show the importance of affordable fuel and energy to the long-term competitiveness of Australia’s agricultural sector – and are the rationale behind the NFF’s continued support of the Fuel Tax Credit Scheme.
The NFF believes that extensive research and development is needed to enable farmers to insulate themselves from the escalating cost of diesel, petrol and energy. This may include new technologies that help improve the efficiency of fuel use, alternate fuel sources, alternate fertilisers (many fertilisers are fuel based) and biotechnology research for genetically modified (GM) crops that are less reliant on fertiliser use.
Sustainable Development Goals Australia 2016
NFF 2016 NATIONAL CONGRESS