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Clarity sought in proposed land grab

National Farmers Federation Chief Executive Tony Mahar attended a meeting in Charters Towers yesterday with landholders affected by the Australian Defence Forces' plan to compulsory acquire pastoral land for military training purposes.

In a letter sent to more than 50 landholders in November 2016 the ADF outlined intentions to potentially make the acquisitions as part of plans to expand military training facilities for Singaporean soldiers.

The National Farmers Federation is working with the Queensland farmer representative body, AgForce, to determine the status of the Government's proposal plan.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Chief Executive Tony Mahar said a priority was to understand if the Government was still weighing up different options or whether a decision had been made in regards to the identified parcels of land.

"Once we have clarity over the status of the plans we can focus on getting the best possible outcome for farmers and their communities. 

"What is certain is that the NFF, like AgForce, is vehemently opposed to any compulsory acquisition of agricultural land," Mr Mahar said.

CEO of the National Farmers' Federation, Tony Mahar (left) with President of AgForceQLD, Grant Maudsley

The NFF has extended invitations to meet with both the Defence Minister Senator the Hon Marise Payne and the Deputy Prime Minister for Agriculture & Water Minister the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP to better understand  the proposal.

"We are urging the responsible Ministers to travel to Queensland to meet directly with farmers and hear first hand the impact the compulsory acquisition of pastoral land would have."

Mr Mahar acknowledged comments by Minister for Northern Australia Hon Matthew Canavan at a meeting in Marlborough on Monday that an impact study into the plans was currently being carried out by KPMG.

"We will be pushing the Government to ensure that everyone who will be affected by the proposal has the chance to have their say through this process," he said.

Ms Mahar said the NFF was generally dismayed that once again agricultural land was potentially being sacrificed by Government for alternate uses.

“Agriculture is Australia’s second largest export earner and that land used for food and fibre production must be prioritised in planning decisions.

“As the Deputy Prime Minister Joyce put it – Australian agriculture is in ‘a golden era’.

“Total agricultural production for 2016-2017 is forecast to total more than $60 billion – the largest annual total on record. Australia’s agricultural exports are now second only to iron ore in terms of importance to the national economy.”

“The ag sector is therefore not only a pillar of our economy but also the bedrock of our local communities and must be prioritised as such.”

As the Deputy Prime Minister Joyce put it – Australian agriculture is in ‘a golden era’
Tony Mahar, NFF Chief Executive

Going forward Mr Mahar said the nation needed a strategic framework to guide land planning that recognises the importance of agriculture and gives it the priority it deserves.

“Such a framework must prioritise the growth of the agriculture sector and recognise the important role the agriculture sector plays – and will continue to play – in the economies of our local communities, our states and territories and our nation.”

“We risk that one day we will turn around and be surprised to find that our landscape in some areas will have changed so much that agriculture can’t be that strong pillar of our economy that we all need it to be.”

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