Bundaberg Cane Growers
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Farmers wary of Finkel report failures

Colin Bettles@ColinJBettles
9 Jun 2017, 6:30 a.m.
NFF President Fiona Simson pointing out the energy cost needs of farmers ahead of the Finkel report's release.

NFF President Fiona Simson pointing out the energy cost needs of farmers ahead of the Finkel report's release.

All eyes will be on tomorrow’s handing down of the Finkel report including close scrutiny by the farm sector.

ALL eyes will be on tomorrow’s handing down of the Finkel report including close scrutiny by the farm sector which is demanding urgent government policy action to address escalating energy costs and detrimental impacts on farm viability.

The independent export panel’s review into the future security of the National Electricity Market (NEM) has been spearheaded by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel and received over 360 submissions during the consultation period.

The report came out of an agreement in October last year by COAG Energy Ministers to review the NEM’s current status in order to provide updated advice to governments on a coordinated, national reform blueprint.

A preliminary report was released in December last year.

The National Farmers’ Federation’s (NFF) review submission said the NEM was “not working for Australian farmers and needs serious reform”.

NFF said the entire Australian community relied on secure, affordable access to electricity and other forms of energy, and the Australian agriculture sector was “no different”.

“The current regulatory regime is not serving the interests of users and this is particularly the case for Australian farmers,” it said while highlighting a case study that showed an analysis of demand tariffs on irrigators in St George increased electricity bills between 200 per cent and 300pc.

“The regulatory regime needs to be updated to maintain ongoing relevance of the NEM to consumers and to meet future challenges.

“A coordinated national strategy for emissions reduction and electricity market reform is necessary to provide certainty and to ensure access to affordable and reliable sources of electricity.

Ahead of the final Finkel report being submitted to COAG today, the NFF and irrigators again highlighted the need to attack reforms that will address the core issues or energy affordability and reliability.

NFF President Fiona Simson said for farmers, high power prices were more than just a drain on the bottom line as they also competed with farmers from other countries that have lower costs of production, are highly subsidised, or both.

Ms Simson said minimising the cost of inputs was “critical for farmers to compete in our most valued markets – both overseas and at home”.

“The farmers I talk to know that a transition away from the cheap, coal-based power generation is inevitable as assets age and new technologies become more and more affordable,” she said.

“We know the transition to clean energy generation is not free, but the threat of climate change makes the sacrifice worthwhile.

“Minimising the transition cost is only possible if we have stable and coherent policy settings that provide the right signals.”

Ms Simson said the current NEM rules favoured electricity businesses at the expense of the consumer.

But she said the Finkel report was an opportunity to reset the conversation about the policies required to achieve a secure and reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity supply into the future.

“It’s time for the Commonwealth to put all options on the table - including market-based approaches - and to support an evidence based discussion on how we get the national policy settings right,” she said.

“It’s time for the states to agree to genuine regulatory reform to the NEM.

“The states need to show that they care more about households and the competitiveness of businesses than they do about their prized cash-cows – the state-owned electricity generation, network and retail businesses.

“A business-as-usual approach is not an option.”

The National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) said the Finkel report must set the stage for a return to certainty and lower electricity prices - otherwise Australia risked pricing itself out of international markets.

NIC CEO Steve Whan said the government and the Australian people saw agriculture, and particularly irrigated agriculture, as supplying fresh food for Asia, driving export income and jobs so Australians can continue to enjoy our high living standards.

Mr Whan said water and electricity were inputs that enabled Australia to supply that fresh food and natural fibre.

Graph provided by NIC illustrating irrigation electricity cost impacts in South Australia at a single pumping station.

Graph provided by NIC illustrating irrigation electricity cost impacts in South Australia at a single pumping station.

But he said it was “quite clear” that if electricity prices continued at current levels, there would be a growing gap between expectations and reality.

“Electricity prices can be a massive input cost for producers of vegetables, fruit, nuts, dairy products, grapes, sugar cane and cotton,” he said.

“It’s not going to be good enough for Finkel report to just be the start of a process that in the medium to long term slows increases or just stabilises prices and it won’t be good enough if the outcome is one that allows networks and their owners to lock in exorbitant returns at the expense of consumers.

“Australia’s power prices are a serious threat to the production of reasonably priced agricultural product.

“Australia should have a competitive advantage with energy and the Finkel report needs to be the start of power prices coming down - not just another chapter in an argument where all, bar the network owners, are the losers.”

Irrigators annoyed at costs

NIC Energy Committee Chair Dale Holliss.

NIC Energy Committee Chair Dale Holliss.

Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group representative and Chair of NIC’s Energy Committee Dale Holliss said 2009 prices had increased by over 130pc – but CPI in that time had only increased by 21pc.

Mr Holliss said water and electricity are inputs that enable Australia to supply fresh food and natural fibre.

But he said irrigators’ electricity prices are a serious threat to the production of reasonably priced agricultural product.

“A number of our members who irrigate sugar cane are seriously considering diesel as an alternative or going back to dry land farming and abandoning irrigation altogether,” he said.

“We would like the Finkel report to identify a method that would return the networks back to enabling infrastructure.

“At present they are cash cows for whoever owns them.

“In Queensland successive state governments have used ERGON, ENERGEX and Powerlink to suck the wealth and capital from regional Queensland - this is then sent down the power line to Brisbane and is evaporated between Ann and George Streets.”

Bill Shorten’s olive branch

Political commentary has also been heightened this week with the report’s imminent release sparking debate over the merits of a carbon trading scheme.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said indecision and confusion about policies was discouraging long term investment in energy markets that, across the eastern coast of Australia, are in “disarray”.

“Wholesale electricity prices have doubled, we've got a gas crisis in terms of availability of local gas,” he said.

“We want to see a decrease in pollution rather than an increase in pollution and we certainly want to make sure that we provide certainty for investment which helps keep downward pressure on electricity prices.

“So yesterday I wrote to Mr Turnbull, I extended an olive branch because Australians want more from their political leaders than just the ongoing fighting and division over climate change.

“We've said to Mr Turnbull that depending on what's in the Finkel report, the Chief Scientist’s report - that we are willing to work with the government to find the best way forward.

“Now all of the experts say that an Emission Intensity Scheme focused on power generation is the best way forward to keep a downward pressure on prices, to help increase jobs, to improve our energy market and of course, tackle pollution.

“If the Finkel Report comes up with a scheme and it's not called an Emission Intensity Scheme, even though that's probably the best option - if it's called a Low Emissions Target (LET), depending on what is in the Low Emissions Target - we are not going to let the name stop a deal occurring.

“We are prepared to work with Mr Turnbull to put a price signal on emissions, not to try and keep pretending we can keep reinvesting in new coal-fired power stations.”

Agriculture and Water Resources Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce said a coal-fired power station was “vastly more likely” built to provide base load power, under something like the LET.



Bundaberg CANEGROWERS in association with the Agrotrend Field Day Committee provided growers with the opportunity to visit AgroTrend for Farmers Day Friday, and to also take a half-day bus tour to participate in the following activities:

  • Canetec Factory at Bundaberg Technology Park
  • New SRA site at Pashleys Road for site development briefing
  • Grain in Cane Co-operative Soybean Harvest and Facilities

The CANEGROWERS marquee was on site and hosted a number of static displays and presentations.

Congratulations to Ovo Pty Limited, first prize winner of the CANEGROWERS members’ draw and Mr CL Cella, second prize winner.

Cane-Trends 2017 Cane-Trends 2017 Cane-Trends 2017
Cane-Trends 2017 Cane-Trends 2017 Cane-Trends 2017
Cane-Trends 2017 Cane-Trends 2017 Cane-Trends 2017

 To view the full range of photos click here.


Farm Management Grants

Farm Management Grants are now available to assist eligible Queensland primary producers or their relatives offset the costs of professional advice associated with succession planning.

Costs eligible for the rebate include those for professional advice provided by suitably qualified professionals including for example, accountants, succession advisors or solicitors – view QRAA Frequently Asked Questions or guidelines for more details.

Rebates of up to 50 per cent of the amount paid for professional advice, to a maximum of $2,500 for each financial year of the scheme, are available. To receive a rebate for a financial year, an application must be received in that year and may include an application made before professional advice is received.

This scheme will close to applications 30 June 2019.


To be eligible for a Farm Management Grant, you must:

  • be a primary producer, or a relative of the primary producer for a primary production enterprise
  • have paid, or will pay for advice relating to transferring or acquiring an interest in the primary production enterprise from a suitably qualified professional, at or after 23 March 2017

Full eligibility information and terms and conditions can be found in the Farm Management Grant guidelines.

How to apply




Transport guidelines

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 Projects and Events


The “Smartcane BMP” Program is an opportunity for sugarcane growers throughout the state to showcase their farming practices. Smartcane BMP Facilitators in your local CANEGROWERS office are available to assist growers to register on the Smartcane BMP website and to complete assessment questionnaires about various aspects of their farming practices. Growers who have registered on Smartcane BMP and completed the assessments are invited to seek assistance from their local facilitator to achieve Smartcane BMP accreditation. Facilitated training and assistance sessions are held at CANEGROWERS office each Thursday morning. For further details on the Smartcane BMP Program click here.


CANEGROWERS Insurance Scheme  - owned by growers, working for growers, was commenced in 2012 to look after our members’ insurance needs. Wide Bay Authorised Representative Colin Mobbs has extensive experience in looking after the insurance needs of the rural sector and has assisted many of our members to ensure that their insurance cover is tailored to their requirements. Col provides a personalised on-farm service to growers, primarily servicing CGU’s Canepol insurance policies. He also has access to a broad range of other insurance products and alternative underwriters so that appropriate insurance cover can be obtained for all aspects of members’ businesses at the best price.

To contact Col to discuss your insurance needs call 4151 2555 or on mobile on 0418 891 783.


 Irrigation Planning and Management Project


Our Mission is to provide representation, leadership and services and promote unity in the interest of our members.

Our Goals are to provide an effective and efficient service through a focus on members' key concerns within a changing environment. To maximise member and industry proceeds by marketing current and future sugar production through a structure that is transparent and accountable to the industry. To ensure that industry growth is managed and market driven within a sustainable sugar industry. To ensure environmentally and financially sustainable production through managing and coordinating inputs and resources.

Our Vision is to ensure a secure and profitable future for Bundaberg CANEGROWERS members.


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As at: Sun, June 25, 2017 - 3:00 PM
Temp: 23.5°C
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Australian Farmers Weekly Wrap

Click here to view this weeks news update.


QFF Weekly Update

Here's 10 things to know from QFF:

  1. For all the talk about the importance of agriculture to the Queensland economy, the 2017-18 State Budget disappointingly falls short of delivering upon the hype. QFF State Budget response statement HERE. ABC article HERE.
  2. See Minister for Agriculture Bill Byrne’s State Budget statement HERE. See the LNP’s State Budget’s agriculture response HERE.
  3. QFF industry member CANEGROWERS has slammed the Queensland Competition Authority’s (QCA) electricity prices announced on Friday 16 June as “indefensible”. QCA’s regulated prices HERE. CANEGROWERS statement HERE.
  4. Queensland farmers are serious about on-farm energy efficiencies and energy renewables being realised through the QFF Energy Savers Program. See Part 2 of QFF’s Energy month columns in QCL HERE.
  5. QFF industry member CANEGROWERS has helped finalise Cane Supply Agreements (CSAs) that allow their members in four Queensland regions to choose how raw sugar from their cane is priced and sold. CANEGROWERS statement HERE.
  6. More farmers are realising Farm Management Deposits (FMD) provide self-insurance that leads to steady income. QFF is leading research on how insurance can be used as a form of risk management for farmers. QFF Column HERE.
  7. three-month gun amnesty has been announced by the Federal Government in a bid to rid the community of illegal firearms. ABC article HERE. Details HERE.
  8. Farmers are encouraged to take part in an Agribusiness Investment Forum on 8 August to learn how to take their businesses to the next level. Details HERE. Register HERE.
  9. The CSIRO and the Department of the Environment and Energy are studying how Australia’s biodiversity has changed in recent years. Farmers are encouraged to share their insights through an online survey HERE. Project HERE.
  10. Six Queensland producers from the Murray Darling Basin will showcase their produce in Taiwan to encourage demand as part of the ‘Now in Season’ campaign. Details HERE.



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