A new NSW Agricultural Commissioner announced today will have the power to investigate groups such as animal activists Aussie Farms who threaten the right to farm.
The new Commissioner will have the power to take on anyone who threatens the right to farm from large corporations to councils redeveloping agricultural land, the State Government announced.
The Commissioner will “support farmers, small timber operators and agricultural processors whenever regional ‘lawfare’ is used to threaten their right to farm”.
The Commissioner will also “work alongside planning authorities to strengthen standards development and zoning methods and make recommendations to government to ensure our farmers are always protected”.
“Priority areas for the Agriculture Commissioner will be on issues currently threatening our farmers, including the implementation of the National Dairy Mandatory Code of Conduct and Strategic Action Plan, advocacy in dairy contract negotiations and addressing the recent attack on farmers by the mischievously named Aussie Farms.”
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NSW Labor says the new Commissioner will get so bogged down in various matters the position will never lead to any outcomes. It maintains planning laws should be changed to give farmers’ protection, and the Government was sitting on its hands about this.
The new position was launched at the Kelly’s farm at Wongarbon. Alistair Kelly said the idea was a good one if it sticks up for farmers who felt they were under pressure from larger forces.
“I guess the Commissioner will back farmers up on issues, and may save farmers the trouble of having to go to solicitors,” he said. “It’s a good thing and I expect it will be properly resourced.”
Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair said increased urbanisation means that many farms are under pressure from “people who complain loudly about farming noises and smells”.
“These complaints could end up in court where well-funded activists use legal tactics to drag out the process, making it unaffordable and unworkable for farmers, agricultural processors, fishers and foresters to do their job,” Mr Blair said.
“As our farmers battle one of the worst droughts on record the last thing we want is for them to have to worry about fending off nuisance claims from environmental activists, ‘tree change’ new neighbours and ad-hoc rule changes by local councils. We will be the voice and create the noise for farmers when their rights are being questioned – we are standing up for farmers.”
The Government said the Agriculture Commissioner will also work closely with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to implement the recommendations in the recent review of the NSW Government’s Right to Farm Policy.
Mr Blair said NSW Labor’s support for the recommendations of the South Australian Royal Commission is yet another attack on the property rights of farmers.
“Let’s be clear - a vote for NSW Labor or a single-issue minor party is a vote for a poorer agriculture sector and a vote to see our farmers’ rights destroyed.”
The new Ag Commissioner will work with the Office of the Small Business Commissioner.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, John Barilaro said farmers and their communities will benefit significantly from this new support.
“The NSW Nationals know that working in the agriculture sector is tough enough – the regular confrontation of increased regulation, tough seasonal conditions and the growing market power of major corporates,” Mr Barilaro said.
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Labor’s shadow ag minister Mick Veitch said “after 8 years – it seems that all the Berejiklian Government can do is throw all issues in the “too hard basket” over to an Agricultural Commissioner. The announcement today is light on detail, but big on a scare campaign.
“Labor is concerned that the Commissioner will be bogged down in complex debates and local politics. Essentially becoming so bogged down they will be unable to stand up for a productive and sustainable agricultural industry.
“With Right to Farm – this needs to be worked through from a planning perspective as well as educating the public.
“The Government has been sitting on the draft State-wide planning policy “Primary Production and Rural Development” for more than a year now. Why isn’t Minister Blair focussing on this? Why hasn’t the Berejiklian government progressed this?
“Labor will be having more to say on these and other related matters as the election campaign unfolds.”
National’s candidate, Mackenna Powell, has welcomed news that farmers in the Wagga Wagga electorate will have even more support when it comes to protecting their livelihood, with the Nationals in government vowing to establish an Agriculture Commissioner.
Mackenna Powell said farmers and their communities in our electorate will benefit significantly from this new support.
“Our farming community faces daily threats, including increased regulation, tough seasonal conditions and the growing market power of major corporates,” Mackenna Powell said.
“The rest of our communities feel the strain when our farmers are suffering, so this announcement will empower our whole region.”