I have some sympathy for the farmers of Nyngan and Cobar in New South Wales and the newly formed Regional Community Survival Group in their struggle to manage invasive woody weeds. I have posted some information from this group, including a note on the recent blockade.
I have less sympathy for NSW Farmers Association and their new campaign “Get Off Our Backs”. The NSW Farmers Association never stood up to the Wentworth Group and they went along with the Greenpeace anti-GM canola campaign.
I detail my thoughts on the issue in my latest column in The Land:
“I hope NSW Farmers Association’s new campaign intended to improve the image of farmers with the slogan “Get off our backs” resonates in Sydney. But I doubt it.
The association’s website explains that the community “has been misled on green issues for too long. It’s time for the truth.”
So what is the truth?
The way a lot of people see it, just a year ago NSW Farmers was asking for drought aid.
Remember the 2000-strong drought rally in Parkes? It generated lots of interest in Sydney with stories about desperate farmers, dust and hungry animals.
Unfortunately, through the years these stories have reinforced a perception that many Australian farmers are environmental vandals flogging a dry landscape.
If farmers want governments off their back, they must realise Australia is a land of drought and flooding rains and not keeping claiming exceptional circumstances.
There is some concern at the moment about the Wilderness Society and its “Can’t find a billabong ‘cos they’ve bulldozed the Coolabah trees” campaign.
But in terms of long-term damage to the reputation of Australian farmers this campaign pales into insignificance next to the National Farmers Federation (NFF) campaign of 2000-2001. Back then NFF executive director, Wendy Craik, pleaded for a massive $65 billion to stop the spread of dryland salinity and repair 200 years of damage from claimed unsustainable European farming practices.
Not a month goes by now without a newspaper headline telling how bad it is in the bush.
On federal budget night, Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, announced another $500 million for the Murray River to reduce salinity levels — the centre-piece of the Government’s commitment to saving the Australian environment.
I was hoping some farm leader might have seized the initiative and issued a media releasing explaining that salt levels in the Murray are at historic lows and they don’t need to be artificially pushed any lower, but instead there was silence.
Last week I read how water levels in the Murray River are the lowest since records began more than 100 years ago.
But the article was confusing low water inflows with low water levels, the journalist apparently unaware that the Murray River ran dry in 1914.
In this drought, South Australian irrigators are receiving 80 percent of their water entitlements thanks to the dams and weirs upstream in NSW and Victoria, and the river is full of water all the way to South Australia.
The latest false claims about the Murray’s record low water levels also gave the ABC another opportunity to suggest agriculture is in trouble and lament yet another catastrophe in rural Australia.
If NSW farmers are going to have long-term success with their campaign, “Get off our backs”, then farm leaders need to try harder to correct such misinformation.
City dwellers would be surprised at how much they’ve been misled by the environment lobby (not to mention how many more trees there are now than at the time of European settlement), but more farmers will need to take more responsibility for their own businesses come drought or flood.
It’s no good telling people to leave you alone if they honestly believe, or have been hoodwinked into believing, you are wrecking the environment.“