Opinion: Policy must protect, value food security

My opinion piece as Published in The Weekly Times on Wednesday February 17, 2021

As discussions proceed about carving out industries in a 2050 net-zero emissions plan, one point is being lost in the comments made by those so far.

That is whether we value and fully understand the work of farmers and how policies will work to ensure farmers remain internationally competitive and in turn ensure Australia’s ongoing food security.

The last thing we need is to set policy that makes farmers even more uncompetitive on international markets and smashing already slim profit margins.

Just because we produce far more food than we consume today doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

If we do get to that point farmers will be forced to walk away, potentially leaving us relying on other countries to supply most of our food.

One thing the coronavirus pandemic has shown is what happens when food isn’t on the shelf when we want it.

It’s not only food security that will be lost if farmers are forced off the land.

We also lose the valuable and vital work they do in managing the landscape and the environmental outcomes farmers deliver — outcomes like the elimination of vermin, removal of invasive species such as blackberries and gauze and the important work done to counter salinity.

The potential benefits of net-zero policy will be outweighed by the loss of the work farmers are already doing in the environmental space.

A farmer’s role in this space isn’t properly understood and it is why the importance of agriculture and all it delivers to this nation needs to be shouted from the roof tops.

Because of that global market we operate in we need to make a decision: do we want food produced here or not? The answer of course should always be yes.

But we need to find a way to ensure that the skewed market is not manipulated by the policies put in place domestically to even out the playing field.

Be it poor road conditions, ineffective rail freight or high energy costs, poor policy settings locally will add costs to farmers that then reduce their viability on the global stage.

New policies around the storage and use of animal manure on farms is a further example of how Victoria’s State Labor Government does not understand or support farmers and the work they do.

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