October 18th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: ENVIRONMENT: Don't spoil a good story with the facts ...

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Reshuffling the decks

AGRICULTURE: Unrestricted water trading a danger to farmers

FEDERAL ELECTION: Deregulation, drought, the dollar and the $7.5 billion surplus

FAMILY: AFA Conference calls for strengthening of marriage law

COMMENT: Poor always the losers in a middle class game

LETTERS: WA capitulates on Competition Policy (letter)

LETTERS: Taiwan and the UN (letter)

LETTERS: First Mildura Irrigation Trust (letter)

LETTERS: Rural economy (letter)

LETTERS: The future of rail (letter)

TAIWAN: Making strides in biotech

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Flying down to Rio / Shooting stars and black holes / Digging holes and filling them up again

RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS: Dr Pell's new appointment welcomed

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Rural economy (letter)

by H.S. Spence

News Weekly, October 18, 2003

As a farmer for half of my 92 years, I was very interested in the article in News Weekly, (September 20, 2003), about the issues behind the rural crisis.

I was a member of one of the rural marketing boards which you mention.

It was a Labor Government in the early 1920s which inaugurated these commodity boards.

In those far off days, a considerable number of towns-folk would have had some relatives farming and would therefore have been aware of any event affecting farmers' living conditions.

This would have included politicians of the day also.

Your description of farmers as "price takers" not "price makers" is very much the position that they were in prior to being given control of their industries.

Wheat growers were just sitting ducks in Queensland, and received much less for their grain than their brother wheat farmers in NSW, where the buyers came from.

All that they could do was complain and accept what they were offered.

I am surprised to hear that there is opposition to the "Single Selling Desk" idea which works in the farmers' interest.

It does away with competition between different sellers, thus enabling farmers to fix their selling price instead of buyers combining to fix the price offered to growers of commodities.

The role of supermarkets in the price fixing for locally produced vegetables, milk and eggs, which have a short prime life is also noted, and when the largest of these buyers combine in their buying, the farmer is at their mercy.

As for passing the arranged cheap prices on to the house-wife, that will never happen.

The shareholders must get a good dividend. Of course farming is a way of life rather than an occupation.

H.S. Spence
Rockhampton, Qld

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