Tweed farmers in a tough paddock

By PETER CATON

FULL-time cattle and dairy farmers on the Tweed - once a mainstay of the local economy are dying breed.

Only a few dozen farmers remain in the Tweed Shire with official figures for the Tweed and Lismore districts indicating just 63 could be considered better than part-time operators.

President of the Tweed Combined Rural Industries Association Col Brooks says increasing costs and government regulation are forcing the traditional Aussie cow cockie out of business in the Tweed.

He pointed to recent figures, which show in the combined Tweed Lismore Rural Lands Protection Board district only 63 cattle and dairy farmers could be considered better than "parttimers".

About 550 farmers are considered part-timers, while another 2620 are regarded as hobby farmers.

Mr Brooks said the figures for Tweed alone would be "a bit more frightening".

He said an 80-hectare (200 acre) cattle property on the Tweed would be lucky to bring in a gross income of $20,000 a year.

After expenses, not including council rates, the same farm would produce a net income of $11,000.

If Tweed Shire Council's planned seven years of rate rises went ahead, he said that could take a further $3,000 a year for an 80-hectare property, or about 27 per cent of the net income.

"There just won't be any viable full-time cattle farms.

"Ten years may see just about the end of the cattle industry here."

Earlier this week, Mr Brooks said the remaining cattle and canefarmers in the Tweed were further suffering as a result of the latest fuel-price hikes.

He said the region's canefarmers can also expect a huge cut to their bottom line once harvesting starts in two months time.

Mr Brooks said dairy farmers currently preparing ground to plant winter seed were particularly feeling the pinch.

He said the increased price of diesel, which is selling at between $1.32 and $1.35 a litre locally, was proving too expensive.

"Once the canefarmers start up, that's going to have a profound effect on their income," he said.

Mr Brooks warned the range of increasing costs could further hasten the decrease in the number of cattle farmers on the Tweed.

Another recent threat to farmers is the proposed changes to Australia's industrial relations laws, under which the government can force presently unincorporated operations, such as farms, to become incorporated. But by doing so, those operations will lose substantial tax benefits and some higher costs.



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