Producers urged to speak up at St George rural crisis meeting

Beef Central, 29/01/2014

The case for the creation of an Agricultural Reconstruction and Development Board within the Reserve Bank of Australia will be put to the Federal Government at a rural crisis meeting to be held in the Southern Queensland town of St George this weekend.

The cattle and grain growers behind the event are hoping it will draw national attention to the desperate plight many primary producers are facing to stay in business, while at the same time offering hope to the rural community that efforts are underway to provide a much-needed circuit breaker for their problems.

The severe drought that has pushed thousands of already financially-stressed farming operations to the limit of viability has this week also caused the normally expansive Balonne River waterhole at St George to run dry.

While drought has dramatically intensified the pressure many farmers are now facing to stay afloat, organisers say attention must focus on the bigger picture impact of the long-term decline that has occurred in terms of trade for primary producers, and the urgent need that now exists for fundamental changes in agricultural policy if primary production is to return to viability.

The alarming reality for many 60-70 year old farmers today is that they are still receiving the same basic farm-gate prices for their beef cattle or wheat that they were receiving as fresh-faced youngsters new to farming back in their 20s, but the costs of producing the same article are now many, many times higher.

They find themselves physically and mentally burnt out after decades of hard physical work, but have little choice but to keep pushing on because the market for rural property has stalled and accumulated debt levels have left no provision for retirement.

Droughts come and go but the gradual decline in terms of trade has been a stubborn constant.

This Saturday’s meeting will be attended by federal agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, who for 10 years ran his own accountancy practice in St George before entering politics as a National Party senator for Queensland in 2004.

Queensland University of Technology economics lecturer Dr Mark McGovern will detail his views on the policy shortfalls that have caused the long-term rural viability crisis to develop and will also outline a bill currently before Federal Parliament which calls for the introduction of an Australian Reconstruction and Development Board.

Local cattle producer Rob Moore will explain the details of his proposed solution to the profitability crisis in the form of a new bill he has authored called the Primary Producer Pricing Bill.

The event will include a public forum, and representatives from Centrelink, rural counselling services and the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will also be in attendance.

One of the organisers, Condamine district farmer and Rural Finance Roundtable Working Group chair Rowell Walton, said the meeting will give producers an opportunity to share their problems directly with the minister, and it was vital they made the effort to attend.

“This meeting is about hope,” Mr Walton told Beef Central.

“It is about telling the rural community that efforts are underway to provide a circuit breaker in the form of the Australian Reconstruction and Development Board, which is well down the path, in committee and calling for submissions.

“It is to draw the attention of the Minister for Agriculture to the plight of so many producers and try to have him take a proposition to the Cabinet to intervene quickly and initiate the ARDB.”

Fellow Roma-district farmer and co-organiser of the rural crisis meeting Charles Nason said the development of the ARDB was not a solution for the long-term viability crisis, but would provide essential relief until other measures were taken.

“The major point is that present policy, or lack thereof, has got us here, it has not worked, it has to be changed,” Mr Nason said.

“Many (farmers) are worn out and burnt out, they have little to show for a lifetime of hard work and dedication.

“There are too many old farmers with too few younger farmers as there is not enough profit in the system to justify an interest.”

  • Cranky Cockies” and the Balonne Council will host the Rural Crisis meeting at St George this coming Saturday, February 1, 2014, at 10am at the St George Civic Centre.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -