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WAFarmers Media Statement I WA Livestock Farmers Want Open Markets not Handouts

24 Apr 2024

Last week 300 farmers from across the South West convened an urgent drought meeting to address what is one of the driest seasons experienced in living memory across what is traditionally the wettest part of the State.

While dry summers are a normal part of most farmers lives, the South West rarely experiences the sort of dry they are currently going through. The combination of last year’s poor spring pasture production, low summer rainfall, and poor prices on offer in the saleyards has forced many farmers to carry excess stock into autumn. The end result is record prices and demand for hay and feed grain, bare paddocks and empty dams.

It’s at times like these, that the State and Federal government need to step up and support

farmers to rectify where they have made things worse through past policy mistakes.

One practical idea raised at the community meeting was for the Federal government to

reinstate the 25% ‘On Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme’ which offered up to $25,000 to growers to help drought proof their farm.

This scheme was put in place to support Eastern states growers during their last big drought but was not offered to Western Australian growers, some of whom were then in their second year of drought across the lower South West. This led to excessive demand on the country water supply scheme across the lower South West as farmers were forced to cart water long distances to provide for their livestock and family on farm.

Any incentive that encourages farmers to build larger dams, sink bores or install desalination units that can help take the pressure off the States ailing network of regional Water Corporation infrastructure has to be a win-win for the State. Even better if the State government’s contribution is half funded by Canberra with growers picking up 75% of the bill.

The decision by the State government not to bring the Federal government’s scheme to

Western Australia has in part been responsible for leaving some South West growers less

prepared than they could have been for the drought they are currently experiencing.

Compounding the problem has been the Federal government’s stance on live exports, which since the announcement of the policy five years ago has deterred sheep producers from investing in on-farm water infrastructure or building fodder reserves.

Farmers respond to market signals and when the Government tells growers that they will end a trade farmers react by reducing investment or diverting funds to other parts of their enterprise such as grain production.

Talk to any farmer and the best thing the Albanese government could do today, is to come out supporting the continuation of the live export industry and work to rapidly expand airfreight capacity for processed boxed meat.

Farmers would much prefer to have additional competition in the market with long-term

prosperity than be on the receiving end of short-term subsidies for water or transport.

If the Federal government refuses to drop its live export policy, then it has to step in and deliver support, starting with a transport subsidy to offset the high cost of trucking livestock to the East.

Such a move would be partial compensation for the damage that they are currently doing to the industry.

In the immediate term WAFarmers welcomes the recent call by the State Minister for

Agriculture, Hon Jackie Jarvis MLC, for the Federal government to relax the live sheep summer export moratorium by two weeks to expand the shipping window to the Middle East.

This is a practical and workable solution which if the regulators work quickly to enact, will help move more stock out of the State, reducing pressure on feed and water. WAFarmers also welcomes the Minsters move to establish the Dry Season Taskforce to work with government agencies, along with hay and grain exporters to do what they can to help


Growers understand that they must compete in the market against export buyers, but they

want the Federal government to recognise that Western Australia is isolated from accessing the Eastern states fodder market because of biosecurity restrictions of moving hay and grain across the Nullarbor.

This is why the live sheep trade is so important to Western Australian growers; when feed

reserves run low the only release is to ship out livestock as fast as the ships can be filled.

Even if the rains were to come in early May, the delay in winter pasture growth will see farmers having to continue to feed well into June.

The risk of 2024 being another dry winter and spring with continuing downward pressure on saleyard prices as growers quit stock at any cost, should be top of mind for a federal

government heading towards the next election.


Geoff Pearson

WAFarmers Livestock President

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