February 26th 2005

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: NATIONAL AFFAIRS: The WMC takeover - losing our last mining giant

EDITORIAL: A challenge to the biotech corporations?

SCHOOLS: The battle for our children's minds

SPECIAL FEATURE: 1.5 million dead Armenians (but don't tell the EU)

ECONOMICS: Australia's plight in dire need of a remedy

SUGAR INDUSTRY: Anger at stalled sugar package

ENERGY: Ethanol needed for new fuel, engine standards

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Conspiracy against public health / Half a loaf is better than one / Palm oil - a New Class aphrodisiac

IRAQ: Shi'ite win in Iraq elections vindicates US role

CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS: China's anti-secession law raises tension

CHINA: Beijing's ban on sex-selective abortion

POPULATION: Why Australia must decentralise to new states now

OPINION: The tsunami of bias

The Holocaust Industry (letter)

Communist killings (letter)

Putin a second Stolypin? (letter)

The Left and the Iraq War (letter)

Misinformation about WW2 bombing (letter)

No reaction to Dutch infanticide (letter)

Link queried (letter)

Sure-fire recipe for disaster (letter)

BOOKS: DAWKINS' GOD: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life, by Alister McGrath

BOOKS: GOD UNDER HOWARD: The Rise of the Religious Right in Australian Politics

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Anger at stalled sugar package

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, February 26, 2005
When the Federal Government announced a $444 million package for the sugar industry last year prior to the federal election, it was to include two sustainability payments to "help farmers through a transition phase towards reform", a re-establishment grant to those wanting to exit the industry, and an intergenerational package to assist transfer of the farm to the next generation.

The first sustainability payment was made last year, but federal Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss, has suspended the second payment, claiming Regional Advisory Groups (RAGs) had failed to present acceptable restructuring proposals.

But the RAGs don't know what constitutes acceptable restructure plans, as the federal Agriculture Department has produced insufficient restructuring guidelines.

The RAGs are made up of farmers, millers and community representatives from across a region as well as government employees. Millers have competing interests, and therefore have in some cases presented competing plans.

The RAGs should have been made up of discrete groups, one for each mill and its cane-supply farmers, so as to avoid the competing interests of different mills in a region.

It is also being claimed that farmers have decided to stay in the industry because of a rise in the sugar price and the assistance package. Only 38 farmers and three harvesters have accessed the re-establishment/exit grant.

In reality, many farmers want to exit the industry, but the terms and the conditions of the re-establishment grant make it impossible to access. It is so restrictive that many haven't even bothered to apply.

While the government claims that the rising price of sugar is encouraging farmers to stay, the rising price is being substantially offset by the rising value of the Australian dollar against the US dollar (the currency in which sugar is traded on world markets). A rising Australian dollar means that farmers are paid less for their exports.

The biggest failure is the intergenerational farm transfer part of the package. It is almost impossible to access and so is contributing to the future loss of family-based cane farms.

  • Pat Byrne

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