Farmers from across NSW convened in Sydney last week at the NSW Farmers Executive Council meeting to discuss key issues facing the agriculture sector, including drought, water management and the developing COVID-19 situation high on the agenda.
The immediate and long-term impacts of the recent bushfires affecting NSW were also discussed, with multiple policies formed in response to problems identified in bushfire management. Our members supported greater buffer zones around plantation forests, improved water storage in national parks to be drawn on in the event of a fire, and better coordinated fire ground communications to enable a rapid response to fires.
The ongoing drought impact was front of mind, as the financial capacity of farmers to take advantage of recent rain is just not there. Cash flow and working capital are very tight and there are high costs for restocking and replanting. Hence, executive councillors voted unanimously to lobby for a co-investment stimulus grant from the federal government.
Members renewed their call for a legislated Agriculture Commission to aid the independent and transparent decision making to resolve issues affecting agriculture across the state and influence meaningful change.
We need a commissioner to advocate fiercely for the sector within government. The call comes amid the release of the Koala SEPP, which will have unintended and detrimental consequences for farmers due to its problematic interaction with the Land Management Code.
Water access and water availability formed key discussion points, with debate focused on the ability of coastal farmers to harness more water run-off. We support greater harvestable rights for farmers, as well as increased on-farm water storage options to allow them to better capture water for long-term sustainable food production.