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Australian biofuels – the issues & the prospects for farmers

21 June 2007

TODAY the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) helped launch a new study, Biofuels in Australia – an overview of issues and prospects, commissioned by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and undertaken by the CSIRO.

“While Australian farmers recognise that biofuels is a key issue for agriculture, and is already having a significant impact on global demand for agricultural commodities, the perspectives on biofuels vary widely within the farm sector,” Simon Ramsay, Chair of the NFF Biofuels Taskforce, said.

“Our grain and sugar producers, who supply the raw materials for first generation ethanol and biodiesel production, know only too well the significant increase in demand for their output that biofuels can generate.

“Conversely, our livestock sectors, which use grain as a key input and account for 38% of the value of Australian agricultural production, have been understandably concerned about the potential for ethanol to increase costs as they compete for grain.

“It has, therefore, been vital that the NFF develop a robust biofuels policy, based on sound factual information, which draws upon the best scientific and economic analysis available. To this end, today’s report synthesises the information and will help ensure the NFF maintains a sensible, informed position on the issue, in the interests of all farmers.

“While the rhetoric around biofuels is appealing and popular, we need to quantify the potential benefits of biofuels in the areas of environmental impacts, public health, regional development and fuel security.

“That needs to be tempered in light of the potential impacts on livestock farmers and our local capacity to supply the biofuels sector in a sustainable manner – that is, can we produce enough grain and sugar to keep the biofuels flame alive into the future? And, what happens if we can’t?

“This balance is essential to giving the NFF’s biofuels policy integrity. We support the establishment of a sustainable and profitable domestic biofuels industry that can stand-alone without ongoing Government support.

“At this time, mandating biofuels components within petrol and diesel is not the solution. Rather, the focus must be on delivering a range of market-based incentives that place emphasis on biofuels, allowing demand to be driven by consumers, to see biofuels independently competitive over the long-haul.”

The NFF thanks RIRDC for their continued support in facilitating high-quality research in areas of vital importance to Australian farmers, and encourages all policy makers and interest groups to obtain a copy of the report. Biofuels in Australia – an overview of issues and prospects is available from the RIRDC website at: www.rirdc.gov.au.

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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