The rural vote will count in Federal election, NSw Farmers say

NSW Farmers president James Jackson. Photo: File.

NSW Farmers president James Jackson. Photo: File.

The rural vote will count more than ever in the upcoming Federal Election, a beak body representing farmers has said, with drought, better connectivity, live export and climate change some of the biggest issues they want addressed.

There is the idea in the bush that politicians forget about rural people, the issue came to light most recently when the Liberal party pledged $2.3 billion to rebuild two Sydney stadiums.

NSW Farmers president James Jackson said the perception that regional communities are being forgotten about by politicians often arises from a lack of commitment to improving and maintaining infrastructure - particularly roads.

"There is also a significant concern about inequity in education, health, telecommunications and other government services in smaller communities - that are not being replaced," he said.

"As the drought deepens farm workers are relocating to larger centres or moving interstate. This loss of people and their skills will be a critical issue for farmers following rain.

"Like the recent state election, the rural vote will really count in this Federal Election, so politicians of all persuasions must listen to the needs of the rural and regional communities and invest in regional infrastructure."

DROUGHT

Mr Jackson said drought is the number one issue his members are facing and that rainfall was the only real solution.

"The challenge for farmers is managing cash flow and maintaining the business of farming. At a Local, State and Federal Government level there are a wide range of support measures that are assisting," he said.

"These measures, such as waiving LLS rates, providing concessional loans and rebates, and improving access to the Farm Household Allowance have been of benefit.

"However, these measures must not be wound back by a change of federal government, and the next government needs to look at addressing the broader community impacts, especially the on-flow to farm dependent businesses, to ensure that farmers and regional communities have the capacity to rebuild."

Mr Jackson said in NSW there has been a broad level of support provided to address drought impacts that has helped some farmers.

The NSW Farmers president said the Association would like to see programs yet to be announced under the Drought Future Fund developed in response to the needs of farmers, which recognise that the drought impacts are different according to geography and what the farm produces.

"This drought will end and it will be important that farmers have government support to help restock, replant, and replenish permanent plantings (horticulture)," he said.

"In the short term NSW Farmers would like to see a review of red-tape and compliance that constrains the business of farming, and a removal of those requirements that are not critical but add unnecessary costs to the business of farming.

"An example of this would be the new National Class 1 Agricultural Vehicle and Combination Notice that is now in place across large parts of regional Australia, removing the need to apply for permits to move agricultural machinery and combinations on public roads."

BETTER CONNECTIVITY IN THE BUSH

Another major issues facing rural and regional communities was better bush telecommunication.

Increasingly both government and business services are delivered on-line, Mr Jackson said.

"Without adequate access to data and mobile services the innovations that agriculture need to grow and compete in domestic and global markets will be unavailable," he said.

"The commitment to address mobile black spots and ensure that internet connection is equitable to those in urban areas must be ongoing and prioritised. Additionally, support to enhance digital literacy must be addressed, along with support for farmers to co-fund technology infrastructure."

CLIMATE CHANGE

One of the biggest debates in government and across the country was climate change and whether a policy would be put in place to address fixing it.

Mr Jackson said agriculture has the most to gain and the most to lose in our response to climate change.

"It is important that policy settings to deal with climate change enable appropriate decision making by business," he explained.

"Farmers are our greatest land stewards and more must be done to recognise and reward the vital work they undertake in protecting, preserving and enhancing our biodiversity.

THE LIVE EXPORT DEBATE

Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon recently reaffirmed his commitment to shut down the live sheep trade claiming sheep producers were not as committed to animal welfare reform as cattle producers.

"It became clear based on the science that the live sheep trade is not able to continue while also meeting reasonable science-based animal welfare expectations," Mr Fitzgibbon said on ABC Radio.

Mr Jackson said NSW Farmers remains committed to a live export trade, provided it meets the reasonable animal welfare expectations of farmers and the community.

"A ban on the live export trade is a risk to the whole livestock industry. The live sheep exports industry alone contributes $250 million to the Australian economy," he said.

"All farmers will feel the negative impact and there will be a negative ripple effect right across the country with excess sheep on the market."