Assisting our farm businesses to become safer, more affordable and better able to manage innovation and risk is essential to growing the agricultural sector. NSW Farmers is calling for a $35 million package to support farm business skills, tackle unfair taxes and to build resilience and capacity across the 30,000-plus farm businesses in New South Wales.
Stamp duty relief
NSW Farmers is calling for $20 million to extend stamp duty relief to those farmers looking to purchase their first farm. In New South Wales transactional costs, such as stamp duty, are some of the highest in the country.
Stamp Duty is a significant contributor to the cost of vehicle registration, non-farm specific insurances, and property purchases. NSW Farmers opposes stamp duty in all its forms. In particular, we believe that removing stamp duty from purchases that assist young people who wish to start a career producing food and fibre must be a top priority. Stamp duty is not payable during an inter-generational transfer of land between members of a family, but it does apply when a farmer seeks to buy their own first property from a neighbour or non-family member.
NSW Farmers considers that young farmers are significantly disadvantaged in relation to other ‘first home buyers’ as they are not accorded the same exemptions as those purchasing homes zoned as ‘residential’ even though by their own endeavours they are adding to the local, state and national economies.
Recent data on farm sales is difficult to access. However, in 2014-15 there were 3,825 transactions of farms in NSW, at an average value of approximately $3,000/ha. While land values have risen over the last 3 years, we conservatively estimate that between two and five per cent of these transactions are young farmers (under 35) entering their first farming enterprise. Using an average farm size of 1400 ha, the cost of foregone stamp duty to the Government would be in the order of $20 million.
$9.5 million to enhance farm safety
Farmers are disproportionally represented in workplace accidents. On-farm accidents increase the cost of doing business and can devastate families and communities. Over the past four years, NSW Farmers has argued strongly for programs and funding that support farm safety, including rebates that can assist farmers to make their businesses safer.
Shearing safety rebate: NSW Farmers is calling for a commitment of $5 million to improve safety in shearing sheds by providing a rebate of up to $500 per stand to reduce the significant cost impost of replacing ‘unguarded’ equipment, including older overhead shearing equipment and older-style electric plants with exposed moving parts and no anti-lock technology.
Improving on-farm health and safety: NSW Farmers is calling for $2.5 million for a two year program aimed at improving on-farm work health and safety practices, developing practical work health and safety materials and tools, aligned to Australian Standards, to aid farmers to create safe systems of work. This funding would also allow for this material to be user tested with the support of new farm safety consultants to work in partnership with farmers to develop best practice for on-farm safety.
Quad Bike Safety Improvement Program: NSW Farmers is calling for $2 million to extend and embed the Quad Bike Safety Rebate. The current rebate has been effective in reducing the numbers of fatalities and serious injuries arising from quad bike accidents involving farmers, farm workers and farm visitors by aiding farmers to upgrade to other types of vehicles, or to install roll-over protection systems to their bikes. NSW Farmers is calling for an extension of the two rebates of $1000 each to implement harm prevention measures in the workplace through training and purchase of approved helmets.
$5.5 million to enhance digital and financial literacy and improve farmer’s technical and risk management skills
Building farmers’ digital, financial and risk management skills is a key priority for NSW Farmers. We seek $5.5 million to deliver a farmer-focussed skills package to build capacity in the sector.
For many farmers in New South Wales digital literacy is increasingly challenging due to the ever-changing telecommunications environment. Farmers are seeking accessible and transparent information and resources to develop their digital literacy so that they can confidently participate in the digital world and better utilise technologies to maximise economic benefits.
The complexity of telecommunications delivery has become one of the largest challenges for customers trying to understand what is available. The complexity relates to what is available, what it will deliver, where it is accessible and from whom, and the diversity of plans across all telecommunications services. Building an unbiased, objective knowledge base that aids farmers to become informed consumers will significantly reduce frustration and lessen the digital gap between metropolitan and regional consumers.
While farmers seek to embrace advances in technology and technological services, there is a lack of transparent information, resources and skills development support to provide relevant, independent information to meet their personal and professional needs.
NSW Farmers proposes an Australian-based digital literacy service hub to be located in a regional centre supported by an online presence, staffed by personnel with technology, product and service expertise; who can work with farmers to address the geography and distance challenges facing those living and working in regional and rural areas.
Additionally, many farmers have limited formal or post-school education to enhance their financial literacy and therefore operate effectively in an environment of risk management.
Government is increasingly requiring participation in formal learning, that while beneficial in raising the educational levels of the nation, in reality may have little benefit for the individual small business owner, who is a farmer. We do not call for this policy to be rescinded – rather, we are seeking flexibility in delivery of vocational short courses that are easily accessable and tailored to the needs of the farming sector by identifying where the need lies and adapting teaching and learning appropriately to the learner.