NSW Farmers have a new branch for their organisation and it is based here on the North Coast ‘heralding a new era for agriculture in Byron Shire and the Tweed Valley’.
More than 30 local cattle, sugarcane and horticultural producers recently attended the branch’s first meeting in Murwillumbah.
‘We are really looking forward to getting this group together,’ Burringbar farmer and Chair of the NSW Farmers Far North Coast Branch, Craig Huf, told The Echo.
‘Having a local branch of the state’s peak agricultural advocacy body would improve engagement with policy makers from all levels of government, and deal with rural land issues stemming from poor policy developed without adequate input from landholders.
‘NSW Farmers has a great track record of farmer advocacy, and it’s very comforting to be part of an organisation that is covering you while you are head down in the paddock at work each day,’ Mr Huf said.
‘While everyone relies on farmers for their food, all too often we see decisions made that make it harder to produce that food and that erode the sustainability and resilience of agriculture and food production in the region. People need to be aware that more and more imposts on Australian farmers makes them less competitive, and that ultimately means more imported overseas product on supermarket shelves. We’re keen to tackle those issues. We want to really improve genuine consultation and communication and stop the continued erosion of our ability to be productive farmers.’
Mr Huf said the work done by NSW Farmers to secure more support for flood-affected farmers and communities last year, and the work to protect landholders from being sued by trespassers who injured themselves, was proof that membership was worthwhile.
Land conflict issues
‘That catchcry of “Stronger Together” couldn’t be more true – we’ve seen how important it is to stick together over the past year or two,’ Mr Huf said.
‘The far north coast increasingly has land planning challenges for rural landowners, with the massive bushfire mitigation, safety and weed control headaches arising from the rezoning of rural land into “E Zones”.
‘Our farming area is unique since we have a high density of lifestyle owners which is great for our rural villages, schools and communities. Farming alongside lifestyle residents sometimes presents unique challenges and we need to improve communication and upfront information so rural residents can better understand the seasonal timing and weather demands of running a farm.’
Farming? Get involved
The new branch identified seven key areas of focus for the next 12 months, and Mr Huf said he would love to see more people get involved to deliver what the region needs.
‘I think rural landowners and farmers should have a louder voice in the management of weeds like camphor laurel, which poses a risk not just to farmers but towns as it’s flammable.
‘We are actually advocating for policy to support commercialising the harvesting of camphor laurel. If we allow it to be removed more easily by commercial operators, we’ll create economic activity, reduce the burden of management on farmers, and reduce the risk to residents – that’s what I call a win-win-win!’
The first branch meeting for members will be held in the week following 7 February.