Commodity prices, interest rates, electricity, water, telecommunications, and even Barnaby Joyce’s cotton underwear were all on the table at the annual NSW Farmers Conference.
NSW Farmers president Derek Schoen wrapped up the conference in Sydney last week, leaving Tamworth and District Chair Kevin Tongue optimistic about the future of Australia’s industry.
“There is a few dry spots west of the Newell at the moment, but regional ag is in a good position at the moment and the future looks good,” Mr Tongue said.
“Most commodity prices are good, interest rates are good, and input prices like diesel are very reasonable at the moment.”
Some of the issues raised that were of concern to the 200 delegates included soaring electricity prices, a lack of telecommunications coverage in country areas, as well as the Murray Darling Basin water buy back, all of which were addressed across three panel sessions.
“Telecommunications coverage is a problem everywhere - agriculture is becoming more reliant on technology while we haven’t got the infrastructure to support it,” Mr Tongue said.
“We would like to see more funding from all sources and more cooperation between carriers – in New Zealand all three carriers can utilize the same tower but that doesn’t happen here.”
The Government’s controversial plan to buy back environmental water to put back in the Murray Darling Basin also came under scrutiny, with the general consensus that more work needed to be done on both the environmental and social impact of the proposal.
Barnaby Joyce’s address talked up the farming sector, but also included an ultimatum for people against genetically modified crops to take off their cotton undies and shirts, as he urged “sensible” talk around the issue, warning “If we get it wrong, people will die.”
“The seeds from GM cotton are also fed to cattle, so you better stop eating beef too,” Mr Joyce said.