The Western Australian Farmers Federation (Inc) (WAFarmers) is extremely concerned of the content of a Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) report glossing over the dire economic circumstances of many farmers in the wheatbelt as reported in the Farm Weekly on 28 February 2013.
WAFarmers Senior Vice President and Farm Business Spokesman, Tony York, said the report covering only 239 farmers and excluding farms in the far Eastern and South Eastern wheatbelt was in no way representative of the circumstances presented to him over recent weeks.
“I have attended a number of meetings across the wheatbelt, as well as the WAFarmers General Section Council meeting in Perth last week, where the economic circumstances were clearly put forward,” Mr York said.
“WAFarmers has been aware of the existence of this report for a number of weeks and to release such a report a week out from the election smacks of political expediency and the hope that the report will be lost in the myriad of other issues dominating discussion surrounding the election.
“The Farm Weekly article states the report will be released “in coming months. The report needs to be widely distributed across industry immediately so that it can be analysed and commented on before the election. The Government needs to be held to account for what has taken place on their watch.
“And for DAFWA to blandly state that a rationalisation of farmer numbers is what is required to address the current problems just shows how out of touch with reality they are. We are dealing with farmers and their families here, not statistics.
“If DAFWA wanted an indication of the current circumstances in the farming community, they only needed to attend the recent forum convened in Kulin. There was no dissent amongst the 350 farmers in that room, something needs to be done and I know that rationalisation wasn’t part of the solutions proposed.”
Mr York said WAFarmers’ first priority in its 10 Key State Election Issues was a long term plan for the State’s agricultural industries.
“This report, as subjective as it is, clearly identifies the reasons why it is our first priority but falls well short of providing any realistic solution,” he said.
“If there is a need for rationalisation in agriculture perhaps it needs to start closer to Perth. I would really like to know just what the Government has in mind for the wheatbelt, particularly the North Eastern and South Eastern areas, which it seems are irrelevant to any Government consideration of the industry’s well being.
“I also understand that the Minister for Agriculture, Hon Terry Redman, is sitting on another report into the financial health of agriculture and call on him to publicly release that report before the election as well,” Mr York concluded.