The new year is here, and with it comes great opportunities and challenges for Victorian farmers. Despite recent storms, we are still on track for a record grain harvest, with the latest reports forecasting an 8.7 million tonnes winter grain crop in Victoria.
This would smash the previous record of 7.6 million tonnes, set in 2011-12.
Unfortunately, this positive news comes with the reality that cereal prices are currently the lowest they’ve been for decades and growers are facing strong competition in international grain markets.
Elsewhere, we will see some major changes in the livestock and horticulture industries this year.
The state government has introduced mandatory electronic identification in sheep and goats, and it is expected producers will make the most out of a subsidy package to ease the transition.
For this sector prices remain healthy and stable; a promising sign for the industry.
Meanwhile, the federal government’s 15 per cent backpacker tax rate has now come into effect.
Farmers have until January 31 to register with the Australian Tax Office as employers of working holidaymakers.
Those who don’t register with the ATO and still employ backpackers on their farm will be forced to pay the higher non-resident tax rate of 32.5 per cent, or face penalties.
The dairy industry continues to rebuild after being slugged with milk price cuts in April last year.
The United Dairyfarmers of Victoria have already set in motion plans for a voluntary code of conduct with industry support.
And we will see the results of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Australian Securities & Investments Commission investigations into the conduct of dairy processors as a result of the turmoil experienced by the industry last year.
The political landscape is also set to be volatile and will require some strong leadership to navigate.
Convincing the state government to reconsider its position on native vegetation will be our first great challenge.
We will also continue to campaign for an overhaul of the Fair Go Rates Cap.
There are optimistic forecasts for the year ahead. With hard work, we can make the most of the opportunities and challenges presented to us.
David Jochinke, Victorian Farmers Federation president