Ministers must make sure energy projects don’t diminish food production

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling on Australian energy ministers to make sure the transition to renewable energy is overseen by a national code, so we don’t sacrifice food security for energy security.

The NFF has written to the ministers ahead of their meeting on Friday, outlining agriculture’s priorities, backed by the Energy Policy adopted unanimously by NFF members in November.

NFF CEO Tony Mahar said energy, agriculture and food prices were inextricably linked and at a time when food security was high on the agenda, careful consideration had to be given to how the energy and farming industries could work together.

“The transition to renewable energy could mean thousands of kilometres of new transmission lines on agricultural lands,” he said.

“These projects must work in a way that benefits agriculture, rather than creating new challenges and headaches for farmers. Importantly, they must not get in the way of food production and our responsibility to shore up food security.”

The NFF wants the Commonwealth to lead the development of an enforceable code to ensure future transmission lines aren’t implemented without proper consultation, compensation and adversely impacting existing land use. However, Mr Mahar said state governments also had a key role to play, especially where they hold the statutory powers.

“Farmers are on the frontline of climate change, and we support efforts to address this, including through energy transition. It just must be done right and done fairly, so valuable farming land isn’t lost and our ability to produce food and fibre isn’t diminished.

“There is already evidence of farms being impacted by intrusive transmission infrastructure and communities left in the dark about major energy projects changing the landscapes in their backyard.

“It doesn’t need to be this way.”

The NFF has already taken steps to preventing this by working with the Energy Charter to develop the Landholder & Community Better Practice Engagement Guide for early engagement and fair compensation for landowners from electricity infrastructure operators.

With a new government in Canberra focused on delivering its Rewiring the Nation election policy, regional communities wanted to make sure this wasn’t to their detriment.

“A critical measure of success for Rewiring the Nation will be whether landholders, especially farmers, are sidelined through sham consultation mechanisms with predetermined outcomes,” Mr Mahar said.

The NFF also sees opportunity for farmers and rural communities to tap into renewable infrastructure and supports Member for Indi Dr Helen Haines’ 2020 Local Power Plan, which promotes small and community scale renewable generation.

“Farmers are bearing the weight of spiralling input costs while also managing their responsibility for sustainable food production and food security.

“Friday is an opportunity for the ministers to unlock better outcomes for farmers and regional communities.

“Done right, we could see downward pressure on the cost of living for all Australians through energy prices and at the supermarket checkout.”

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