‘Watch this space’ on agriculture

Battle for rural vote at NSW Farmers' pre-election forum at Wingham


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Primary industries contenders go head to head in battle for rural vote at NSW Farmers' pre-election forum at Wingham.

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Right to farm and climate change were hot topics at the NSW Farmers’ primary industries pre-election forum at Wingham last Tuesday night.

Unusually the four opponents from across the political spectrum agreed that: “everyone at this table supports agriculture, but we have different ideas on how we achieve the best outcomes for industry ”.

They also agreed the q-fever vaccination should be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and they did not support the Aussie Farms interactive map.

However, producers were left unclear on exactly what the parties represented could commit to, with ”watch this space” a strong message from the evening.

More than 60 people attended the forum where Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair, Shadow Primary Industries Minister Mick Veitch, Greens agriculture spokesperson Justin Field and Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party member Robert Borsak went head to head in the fight for the rural vote.

NSW Farmers’ president James Jackson said there were a few issues vented including the right to farm and q-fever but there were no commitments on drought.

“There were no solid commitments if drought continues,” Mr Jackson said.

“The drought stories are dire and the short-term drought policy is bare.

“It’s early in the campaign and they alluded to things that will be announced.”

When asked what they would do to improve the dairy farmers’ crisis Mr Blair and Mr Veitch said they would be announcing policies at a later date.

“One of the disadvantages of speaking at forums this early in the pre-election campaign is that there will be policies announced at a later date,” Mr Veitch said.

“Without being coy, there is a watch this space moment for us… but if we are not careful Coles and Wooworths will exist, but we won’t have dairy farmers.”

Mr Blair said he would be raising these issues with his state and federal agriculture counterparts on Friday and would have more to say on the issue.

“If they don’t step up, we will go our own,” Mr Blair said.

“It’s not just about the $1/litre milk and prices going back to processors.

“The Agriculture Commissioners first job will be being with farmers when negotiating with processors.”

Mr Field said he did not want to see dairy farming, one of the largest agriculture industries in his region, go to the wall.

“At the end of the day politics needs to come together to solve this,” he said.

Mr Borsak added: “We will wait to see what the government says….we would like to see a higher price set… if it’s market intervention, then it’s as simple as that.”

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