Recently, I had the great pleasure of meeting with a group of young farmers in Beeac, Western Victoria. They were sharp, engaged and passionate about agriculture. They were also fully aware of the great challenges that face their businesses now and in the future.
The meeting coincided with the first 50 days of the new Parliament and caused me to reflect on what might be achieved in the next four years to help these young farmers become the next generation of successful, sustainable and productive farmers.
In the first 50 days, the Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes has put climate change adaptation on her agenda. I support the minister in this as climate variability already challenges our farmers and, we are told, will affect the next generation more severely.
However, as we adapt, the minister must work with her colleagues to ensure our young farmers have a predictable business operating environment, so they can produce safe, healthy and ethical food.
The burden of rural rates continues to fall unfairly on the shoulders of farmland rate-payers. An effective review has been promised, but in 50 days of government, they are yet to set a timeline for this review.
Fear of farm crime and trespass has plagued the minds of many farmers. There must be sufficient penalties in place to deter livestock theft and harassment from activists. We need legislation that rewards stewardship of native vegetation with an ability to manage paddock trees that are low-value habitat and a barrier to efficient food production.
Finally, I urge the minister to ensure agricultural professionals have access to the same basic services as their peers in the city. To run successful businesses, young farmers need access to fast and reliable telecommunications, fit-for-purpose roads, and affordable energy.
- David Jochinke, Victorian Farmers Federation president