Ask any farmer what the big issues are leading up to this election and they'll tell you the high and increasing cost of inputs and the big competition problems facing multiple commodities.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Shadow Minister Julie Collins squared off at the National Press Club this week, but while cost of living and inflation has been a regular topic during the campaign so far, there was an almost wilful ignorance on both sides about repeated failings of competition policy and enforcement, and the resulting pressure on farm gate prices.
The big supermarkets are out there talking about how the price of food is going up, but there's little talk of how market imbalances are keeping some farmgate prices below the cost of production.
How is it that a farmer can be paid below cost, yet the retailer can turn a tidy profit?
In the dairy sector you've got farmers wearing the cost of floods and inputs while processors and retailers try to reduce prices.
For the poultry growers, there are so many cases of unfair contract terms it's not funny: you either take what you're given, or you're left with stranded assets and bills you can't pay.
And then there's the enormous problem of Australian versus international grain prices.
There's a lot of merit to calls for a grains market transparency study, to lift the lid on why Australian grain isn't reflecting competitive values available on the global market.
Someone is making an absolute killing off Australian agriculture, and it's not Australian farmers.
Our politicians are keen to talk up the huge dollar value of the sector, but they're not talking about the huge problems that are sending farmers to the wall.
We need real action on this competition issue.
There have been plenty of reports and inquiries, but no-one's done anything about them.
It's high time for an election commitment to an urgent, enforceable inquiry with real teeth that puts fairness back in the system.
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