National Farmers' Federation President, Fiona Simson, says for farmers, the Royal Commission into the banking sector represents a maintenance check to keep this mutually dependent relationship powering.
The relationship a farmer has with their bank is much like the one they have with their tractor.
A bank, like a tractor, is needed to plant the seeds to grow. It will also pull you out of a bind. Both will let you down from time to time and the resulting consequences can range from a minor irritation to a major catastrophe.
For farmers, the Royal Commission into the banking sector represents a maintenance check to keep this mutually dependent relationship powering.
As the peak body representing Australia’s farmers, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) had not marked a respective Royal Commission as a top line priority for our industry.
Farmers do not look in the rear-view mirror often. We are future-focussed – always looking to be more productive, more profitable and more sustainable. We need to be if we are going to feed a growing global population. The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030 and 9.8 billion by 2050.
Now that it is here, we hope the Royal Commission will be of benefit.
We hope that in the long term, the Royal Commission, will be more like a ‘pit stop’ than an expensive, unproductive overhaul.Fiona Simson, President, NFF
Latest national accounts figures have agriculture as the nation’s fastest growing industry and the leading contributor to gross domestic product growth. In 2016-2017, agricultural production tipped a record $60 billion. The NFF believes an annual production value of $100 billion by 2030 is entirely within our reach.
To get here, we need the banks on our side. We need lenders to adapt with us to achieve continued growth.
The application of digital technology – think big data, artificial intelligence and automation. Technology presents the opportunity to take productivity growth to the next level. It also means the need for new investment. Farmers are calling on banks to ride the technology wave with us. To be informed and able to asses and quantify the potential of these new operating tools. All in an effort to enable investment where appropriate.
Farmers are looking outside the box when it comes to capital sources.
Between now and 2025 Australian agriculture faces the prospect of a $110 billion shortfall in required capital. As an industry, we know our capital woes will not be solved entirely by our banks. But they remain our most reliable lending source.
Farmers are frontline environmentalists. Australian farmers manage and care for 48 percent of Australia’s land mass. Australian primary industries have led the nation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions — a massive 63% reduction between 1996–2016. Australian water consumption decreased in 2014–15 by 7% from 2013–14. The largest decrease in water consumption was in the agriculture industry.
We are seeking that our record and role in natural resource management be realised and valued by our banking partners.
There is no doubt there have been instances of alleged bank misconduct that have impacted our farmers. Through the Royal Commission, these need to be examined and where appropriate, recourse taken. We welcome this.
Like every enduring relationship, we believe farmers and banks, can benefit from this regal ‘tune-up’. We hope that in the long term, the Royal Commission, will be more like a ‘pit stop’ than an expensive, unproductive overhaul.
Fiona Simson is a Liverpool Plains farmer and President of the National Farmers' Federation