AN UNPRECEDENTED partnership between NSW Farmers and the state government could deliver a raft of popular outcomes for rural voters.
NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Premier Mike Baird and Deputy Premier Troy Grant on Monday afternoon, on a wide range of policy areas from native vegetation laws to young farmer finance options.
Mrs Simson and Mr Grant said they believed this was the first MoU of its kind.
"We are apolitical... we didn't enter this lightly," Mrs Simson said.
"We're happy to work with any party that's in government, but this is the offer we've had from these parties (Liberals and Nationals), and we've accepted it with both hands.
"We weren't approached by Labor or the Greens."
The opportunity to put agriculture front and centre in government policy was simply too good to pass up for NSW Farmers.
"It is good to have a government that recognises the value of farming... (and) is willing to put agriculture up there in discussions."
The centrepiece of the MoU is commitment to scrap the Native Vegetation Act, along with 14 other commitments.
Mrs Simson said one of the most interesting commitments included an extra $4 million for more extension services for Local Land Services (LLS).
"That will certainly be popular," she said.
Other commitments she appreciated included seeing the development of multi-peril crop insurance officially on the government's policy platform, the proposals for a right to farm policy in 2015 and a commitment to begin talking about finance options for young farmers.
The only points of the MoU where Mrs Simson was not satisfied were on drought support and mining policy.
While there was a commitment to review the Mining SEPP in the second half of 2015, Mrs Simson said there should be more concrete protection for agricultural land and water from mining from the government.
For drought support, she said many producers doing it tough in North West NSW still wanted to see more than drought preparedness measures.
Overall, however, Mrs Simson thought the commitments in the MoU were a good recognition of the importance of agriculture in NSW.
Mr Grant said the MoU was proof of the Coalition's focus on farming.
"It's comprehensive... (along with native vegetation) it goes through 14 other farming policy areas."
The Coalition was committed to helping NSW "invest locally, connect globally", Mr Grant said.
Key commitments in partnership
- Reform biodiversity laws – a new Biodiversity Conservation Act which will replace the Native Vegetation Act, Threatened Species Act and sections of the National Parks and Wildlife Act
- Strengthen biosecurity in NSW including research and development for agriculture and aquaculture
- $4 million to fund more Local Land Services extension staff
- To fund the extension of the flying fox netting subsidy program
- $6 billion for regional transport and infrastructure in electorates that support agricultural production
- $1.25 billion in regional communities’ water supplies, helping them become more drought resilient and support population growth, including feasibility of more dams
- Consult with NSW Farmers and other stakeholder organisations on implementing the government’s drought recovery and preparedness policy
- Develop multi-peril crop insurance as an option for farmers
- Support the current National Livestock Identification System with no mandatory electronic identification ear tags for sheep and goats in Australia
- Review recognition of prior learning where best practice is demonstrable e.g. under pesticide regulations
- Statewide review of pest animal management plus commitment to fully funded programs
- Hold a roundtable on young farmer finance with key stakeholders during second half of 2015
- Review the Mining State Environmental Planning Policy during the second half of 2015
- Invest $1.5m to develop a cross-commodity quality assurance strategy
- Consider proposals for a Right to Farm policy during 2015