Mining boom hurting farmers: report PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 26 February 2013 08:45

It's been labelled Australia's golden goose, but a new report says the mining boom has served the rural sector nothing but rotten eggs for the better part of a decade.

 

The Australia Institute claims the nation's agriculture exporters have taken a $61.5 billion hit since the mining boom sent the dollar soaring.

It's new report "Still beating around the bush" tracked the earnings of a number of trade-exposed export industries in the wake of the boom, including cotton, sugar, wheat and beef.

The picture is grim. In 2011/12, the sector as a whole exported almost $40 billion worth of produce, but the strong dollar reduced this in real terms by nearly a half.

Until 2004 the average exchange rate was around $US0.70, but skyrocketing commodity prices have seen the Australian dollar surge to parity with the greenback, and beyond, since late 2010.

The dollar remains high and the boom continues, threatening to leave the export-reliant rural sector in tatters as "collateral damage" if current trends go on unabated.

Queensland Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce said there was no use pointing out the "bleeding obvious" to farmers who just want to know what legacy the mining boom will leave them.

"I think people would accept the mining boom if, when it left, they saw new dams, new railway lines, inland rail, ports," he told AAP.

"If all they see is holes in the ground and wrecked roads, they'll say `there's nothing in that for us.'"

His colleague Ian Macdonald said sugar farmers in his state of Queensland understood the high dollar was a reality beyond the control of government.

But as price takers - those who accept rather than set global prices - extra costs at home weren't at all appreciated in tough times, none more so than the carbon tax.

"If they could get rid of that, they'd put up with the vagaries of the exchange rate," he said.

National Farmers Federation president Jock Laurie said despite the challenges, it seemed the federal government wasn't overly concerned about the agriculture sector at the end of the day.

The resource sector was calling the shots, he said, while farmers were expected to just turn up and get the job done as they always had.

"There's just an expectation that farmers will just keep doing it, whether they're making money or not," he said.

"Well the fact is, things are getting very tight."



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