Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Senator visit provides insight into agriculture

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture Richard Colbeck visited Benalla last week.

MONIQUE FREER June 4, 2014 3:37am

Indi Federal Electorate Conference president Tony Schneider, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture Senator Richard Colbeck and Benalla farmer Michael Burston.

Issues facing the region’s farmers were on the agenda last Friday when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture Richard Colbeck visited Benalla.

Senator Colbeck toured Rutherglen and Wangaratta before speaking with local farmers at the property of Benalla sheep farmer Michael Burston, in a bid to gain a greater understanding of the issues encountered by north-east residents in the agricultural sector.

‘‘It’s valuable for me to hear local farmers’ stories so that I can have that in my mind when I’m making decisions or developing policy,’’ Senator Colbeck said.

‘‘There is always a lot of localised bits and pieces that you pick up and mould into a broader story around agriculture, but picking up the local elements I find really valuable; just talking to people on the ground to see what they’re doing and how they manage their particular patch.’’

Particular challenges that were brought to Senator Colbeck’s attention included profitability, the work of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority and price pressures in the Australian market.

‘‘There’s been a few tough seasons and a lot of farmers have used up a bit of equity in their properties, and we need some good seasons to actually recover,’’ Senator Colbeck said.

‘‘There’s a whole heap of price pressures coming down the supply chain from the supermarket itself, and that’s why free trade agreements are important.

‘‘Alternative markets to the Australian market are important so that if you can’t get a decent price here you might have an opportunity to do that in some other markets and certainly the indications that we’re starting to get out of South-East Asia is that there is real opportunity in those markets providing we’ve got all those settings right.’’

Mr Burston said farmers around Benalla had done it tough in recent years, and continued to face challenges in pricing of their product.

‘‘It costs us about $180 to kill a beast and bone him; it costs just on $80 to do the same in Indonesia, USA $80 and $40 to 50 in Brazil,’’ Mr Burston said.

Senator Colbeck said the information he gathered during his visit would also contribute to the development of the Agriculture White Paper, which would be released late this year.

‘‘That is going to form the foundation that informs our core agricultural policy moving forward, bearing in mind that we committed to make it one of the five pillars of the economy at the election,’’ he said.

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