OPINION: South Australian grain industry under siege

The South Australian grain industry is under siege and how we respond to these challenges will shape the future of the sector.

We’ve just seen a 2023-24 State Budget where the Treasurer spruiked the record grain harvest and its ability to inject billions of dollars into the economy…. with $170 million to be spent on two swimming pools in Adelaide.

While we’ve got a cost-of-living crisis for the state, grain producers continue to prop up the State Budget through our $4.6 billion record harvest and making massive contributions through stamp duty and payroll tax, taking significant dollars out of the regions. Adding to this are the new laws around taxing unrealised gains through superannuation.

For the first time, grain producers are directly paying for biosecurity through the Federal Government’s new levy. The biosecurity incursions are often problems caused by other industries, yet we pay.

At the Flinders Adelaide Container Terminal, owned and operated by Flinders Port Holdings, a TAC of $103.50 (ex GST) has been applied to full export containers and a TAC of $146.50 (ex GST) applied to full import containers. Previously a TAC of $79.50 (ex GST) was applied on full export containers and a TAC of $112.50 (ex GST) was applied for full import containers – representing a 30 per cent increase. This is just another cost that gets passed on to growers.

And growers have the most to lose under the South Australian Country Fire Service’s proposed changes to the Grain Harvest Code, flying in the face of successful practices grain producers have implemented for more than a decade.

The State Government appears to be intruding on farming land in draft legislation of the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act 2021. Will farmers see productive land sacrificed for wind towers and solar without their full consent?

Then we look across the country to Western Australia with the introduction of a cultural heritage Act. We are following the Western Australian experience closely and will need to advocate on behalf of grain producers for sensible, workable cultural outcomes, particularly if something similar was implemented in South Australia.

Finally on the topic of process, it is also getting harder and harder to do the things that should be simple for farmers, like erect a shed. There are daily issues around encroachment and buffer zones. The planning process seems to hinder, not encourage development and investment into our businesses.

Whilst grain producers are currently the state’s biggest agricultural economic contributor, we are seeing cuts to regional road funding and declining investment into research, all whilst regulation and compliance is unnecessarily becoming greatly intrusive. The GPSA team is diligently advocating and defending at a time when the grain industry needs us, in an environment that is throwing up significant challenges.

By Adrian McCabe, GPSA Chair

First appeared in the Stock Journal on 6 July 2023