Happy New Year! I hope readers had a peaceful and relaxing break over the Christmas period and are feeling motivated for all those New Year’s resolutions as we head into 2024.
It’s shaping up to be a big year on the agricultural advocacy front, with local government elections looming in March and the state election just 41 weeks away.
At CANEGROWERS, we remain committed, as we have been for almost one hundred years, to advocating the best outcomes for growers, industry, and the regional communities in which we live, work, and raise our families.
Unfortunately, one of our biggest asks in the upcoming local government elections is, if we’re honest, something you should not have to fight for at all – fair treatment.
Over recent years, the rates bills that appear in our mailboxes as farmers have become an ever increasing hit to our bottom line.
There is no doubt that our councils need to raise the necessary funds to deliver the local services our communities need, but many of our members experience bill shocks whenever a rates notice appears, with significant increases year-on-year.
Farming can be a perilous business, with significant fluctuations in income as we balance tight margins, unfavorable weather, and the boom-and-bust cycle of the world sugar market.
Council rating practices are established to effectively guarantee an income for our local governments. But the process by which councils determine rates is something of a “dark art” and often delivers perverse outcomes.
Farmers in general are often expected to pay much higher rates than other residents and small businesses, while often receiving fewer services.
For many years CANEGROWERS has been working with the Queensland Farmers’ Federation to raise these concerns around equity and fairness.
As a result, at its state council in October 2023, the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) conceded there was a problem. In fact, a number of councils sought to have the issues of equity and fairness raised at the state government level.
The simple fact is, when it comes to supporting our regional communities, the agricultural sector does some heavy lifting.
Recently, an independent analysis of the sugarcane industry found that for every $1 worth of cane grown in Queensland, the industry generates $6.42 in income for the state economy and supports over 22,000 jobs and 10,000 businesses.
As growers we need local governments to work with the farming sector to expand and increase production, which will in turn boost regional economies.
Growers are part of the community, and as such we are willing to pay our fair share for the services provided by our local governments, but many growers are starting to see their rate bill increasing wildly, and out of step with our production costs.
Councils and rate payers need transparency and fairness in the rating practices that local governments use!
In the lead up to council elections in March, CANEGROWERS will continue to fight for fairness and equity in the development of council rate policy.