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The reason you support agriculture in tough times – a lesson in listening to your citizens

20 April, 2020
The reason you support agriculture in tough times – a lesson in listening to your citizens Image

The NSW Liberal-National Government failed to adequately support farmers during the drought. This meant farmers increased debt levels, let staff go, sold equipment and de-stocked leaving the whole sector in a vulnerable deficit.

For some people the drought was simply too much, they sold up, or were repossessed and left the sector.

The Government can’t say they didn’t know about it, I spoke about it in every session of NSW Parliament, used every mechanism available to me to get drought, and drought assistance on the agenda.

The tragic bushfires showed that the NSW Government can indeed find money, and get it out quickly… when it wants to.

Enter coronavirus, the single most damaging thing we are likely to see for domestic and global economies in a lifetime. Yes, it’s that bad – think beyond recession.

Again, almost instant stimulus and instant action from the Government to support industry, employment and business. Still no cash for farmers. Every dollar that can be generated in regional NSW is one dollar less State and Federal Governments will need to borrow. Agriculture is a multiplier on investment. A $1 input in a good season can become a $4 return.

Had agriculture in NSW been supported appropriately, it would have been in a position to bounce back in a coronavirus world, more so than most other industries.

Regional NSW desperately needs the jobs, and supply chain economic activity. There are thousands of direct and indirect jobs, and millions of dollars that are being denied to the people of regional NSW.

We’ve now had rain across some areas of NSW, something we had been told to pray for by the NSW Government – the solution to all farmers problems according to them. Well we’ve had rain, we’re not back to full production and that’s because there isn’t the money to get restarted.

The NSW Government again is ignoring the ‘willing horse’ that is agriculture – that through cropping and livestock production could help to soften the blow coronavirus will have on already weakened regional economies. The willing horse that could help pull regional NSW into a much healthier post coronavirus world.

I hope that people have a long memory of a Government that watched with popcorn as agriculture declined over several years in NSW. Ignoring the fact that in a crisis like this, agriculture is the vehicle that will feed its citizens, and could have changed the economic fortunes of regional areas.

To allow agricultural capacity to decline is criminal, it's taking your eye off the food security and economic ball, a failure that will now come home to roost for the NSW Government.

The only act of redemption available at this point, is giving agriculture a hand up. A re-sowing and re-stocking grant would allow farmers to get back into production faster. But just like the remaining moisture profile in the soil, the hope for the NSW Government to maintain any credibility in regional NSW is fast drying up.

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