What’s Good for the Goose …

For more than twenty years the Country Women’s Association of NSW has lobbied against the importation of foods and to improve biosecurity laws and systems so that our fruit and vegetable industries are protected and the possibility of food contamination reduced.

Constant assurances have been given over that time that the processes in place were adequate.1-cup-frozen-berries[1]

If that is the case, how do we now find ourselves at risk of contracting Hepatitis A from contaminated fruit imported from overseas?

The Department of Agriculture operates a risk-based border inspection scheme to monitor importers’ compliance with sourcing food that meets Australia’s food standards.

According to the Departments “Imported Food Inspection Data” report for January – June 2014 horticulture, which includes fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, was the second highest single commodity (after seafood) requiring inspection. However fruit was only tested as a ‘surveillance food’ for pesticides using electronic profiles.

Clearly not a good enough system, especially when our local growers are subject to such high standards.

Where will you now buy your fruit and vegetables?



Taking the Scenic Route

Apologies for the late post, I was taking the scenic route home – Sydney to Rowena via Canberra and didn’t arrive home until early afternoon yesterday.drought 1

In some respects it really was the scenic route with rolling hills covered in feed and bumper crops still to be harvested, being easier on the eye and the psyche than the dry, barren and dusty plains that awaited my arrival at home. I was certainly feeling very envious and my normally blue eyes were taking on a decidedly green tinge.

I detoured to Canberra so that Queensland CWA President, Robyn McFarlane and I could meet with the Chief of Staff and the Senior Advisor to the Hon. Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Agriculture to discuss our concerns regarding the increasing severity of the drought, the perceived complexities of applying for assistance and the cumulative pressure on landholders and communities. Although we weren’t able to achieve any real outcomes we were afforded around ninety minutes to openly discuss the issues we wanted to raise as well as plead the case for those going into their third year of drought. We are grateful to Diana and Craig for their time and their commitment to keeping the lines of communication open.

Both levels of Government are now firmly focused on preparedness and self-reliance; fair enough, but make sure your promises of increased returns to us, from free trade deals, don’t end up as empty as the food bowl has been.

The CWA of NSW Disaster Relief Fund continues to accept donations for drought affected farmers and communities and all donations over $2 are tax deductible. Click here if you would like to make a donation.

Perhaps you might consider adding rain for drought areas on your wish-list for Santa.


Camels and Straws

DSC_0305There are several things I have comments on this week – all related to actions by those who govern.

The first is an Open Letter to Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey and Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce and NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson. 

Dear Ministers,

I write on behalf of the members of the Country Women’s Association of NSW and would like to express our dismay and concern at the reported shortfall in funds for the Emergency Water Rebate Scheme.

The sheer popularity of this program, alone, should be an enormous indicator of just how great the need is in areas affected by drought, for producers to ensure their stock have access to a clean, reliable water source.

The impact of this shortfall will be far-reaching and will not only impact on the budgets of farm businesses but also struggling small businesses who supply the agricultural industry around them and who, along with their communities, were also seeing the benefits of this scheme.

The issue that concerns us most is how people will cope. Producers who have outlaid money they do not have, on a promise from government. Small business owners carrying credit they can’t afford, on a promise from government.

We have heard time and again the catch-cry at all levels of government , that they want to support viable producers to ensure they are prepared for future droughts and we now have the situation where many of those producers will have taken the steps to help ensure their future is viable, only to find a proverbial  “hole in the bucket”.  Preparedness could not predict the suddenness and severity of this drought. Watering points that have never failed in the past have done so this time. A valuable lesson learned and one that producers were acting on, in good faith, to ensure it never happened again.

A promise is a promise and we call on either the State or Federal Government to keep it.

It is imperative to ensure that, at the very least, successful applications received by 30th June 2014 be funded.

camel-216899_640My second comment also relates to a broken promise. The waiver of LLS rates to producers in drought affected areas, announced in February, which has now been reduced to 50% for 6 months. The Chairman of Local Land Services John Macarthur-Stanham on ABC rural (16/6/2014) was quoted as saying the waivers were an impost on Treasury and tax payers and that “people have also got to look at the glass as being half full, rather than being on the half empty side.” It is pretty hard to expect a positive attitude from people whose budgets are showing bracketed figures for the foreseeable future.

It’s bad enough to recognize and try to understand that there are no avenues for assistance, but to be promised help and then have that taken away, has a completely different effect on your ability to cope. It takes a very small straw……