Peak Victorian and Tasmanian farmer groups have joined forces to call for fair land access rules, in the face of renewable energy developments taking over prime agricultural land.
The Victorian Farmers Federation and TasFarmers have released the Farm Access Code of Conduct, aimed at promoting "respectful and sensible infrastructure development on agricultural land".
They said since 2000, Australia's available arable land had been reduced by 15 per cent, with much of it lost to infrastructure development and urban sprawl.
VFF president Emma Germano said renewable energy and transmission projects needed to be properly planned.
AusNet's plans for the Western Renewables Link have met with stiff opposition from landholders in the Ballarat area.
"In many cases this land is highly productive, supporting and sustaining regional communities, as well as being critical to our nation's food security," Ms Germano said.
"This land is scarce and cannot be replaced.
"Planning projects properly and consulting communities means there is less chance of having to use compulsory acquisition laws to ram projects through."
The two groups said they developed the code with the primary goal of ensuring landholders were heard and respected and that compulsory acquisition was used as a last resort.
"This code of conduct applies to anybody planning to undertake work on privately owned agricultural land," the preamble to the code said.
"These activities can include, but are not limited to, energy infrastructure (solar, wind, underground cables, and transmission lines), resources (mining), state infrastructure (roads), and water infrastructure (dams and irrigation)."
TasFarmers president Ian Sauer said the organisations were partnering in their advocacy efforts in response to the "abysmal" treatment of farming communities across the two states dealing with the construction of new transmission lines.
"This is a direct response to the lack of respect shown by those who want access to agricultural land across Australia towards farmers, their land and their livelihoods," he said.
"We want to see the code of conduct adopted by anyone, be they government business enterprises, or the private sector to ensure farmers' rights are protected."
Mr Sauer and Ms Germano have jointly written to federal energy minister Chris Bowen seeking a meeting to discuss options to adopt the Code's principles into harmonised national and state-based laws.
They said in planning infrastructure developments, greater consideration must be given to their impact on food and fibre production, communities and landholders.
"Landholders are pressured and intimidated into making decisions which are not in their interests and disregard their rights," they said.
Bulla farmer, Alan McKenzie, welcomed the code but said he'd like to see a commonwealth government ombudsman appointed to cover all of Australia.
While he said he hadn't read the new code, it appeared to be a step in the right direction.
"If it's voluntary, that needs to be upgraded to a compulsory code of practice," Mr McKenzie said.
"We have just been through this with a gas provider.
"In the end, they recognised the stress being caused for us was substantial, and we were able to have significant positive conversations with management, not the contractor."
He said he believed codes of practice were essential, not just desirable.
"The farmer knows where he or she stands and the people paying to put the infrastructure in know where they stand," he said.
"More importantly, farmers understand the obligations of the construction company and what happens when they don't come up to scratch."
He repeated his calls for a national ombudsman, who must also cover telecommunications, to deal with issues in all states.
Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance chair Emma Muir, Myrniong, also said she had not read the new code.
"The problem is, where is the big stick, who is controlling all of it?" she said.
"All I can say is the way Ausnet and the state government have gone about accessing our property is absolutely appalling.
"We still feel its illegal and they are doing it in a very unethical and immoral manner - I am very disappointed the government is not giving us stronger rights."