As the new Minister for Agriculture, I have made it clear that one of my main focuses is to develop a comprehensive, state-wide approach to deal with the growing issue of ‘right to farm’.
There are many recent examples of professional activists attacking hard-working farmers with false claims to try to drive a wedge between the bush and city.
The most direct and dangerous of these attacks is farm trespass. This is the disruption of lawful animal husbandry activities in circumstances where there is illegal entry onto a property.
The NSW Government recognises the value of agriculture for growing food and fibre for domestic and international markets and underpinning the local economies of countless country towns and is concerned about the potential loss or impaired use of agricultural land.
Agriculture is fundamental to local, regional and state economies and communities and I am concerned about the serious risks posed by trespass onto farms.
Farms are not just businesses and places of work, farms are also homes to farming families who already have enough stress in their lives dealing with the impacts of crippling drought.
The NSW Government is committed to ensuring that farmers who are simply going about their business in a lawful and responsible manner are permitted to carry out their farming operations without interference by the unlawful actions of animal activists.
Most recently we have seen extreme anti-farm groups hold protests in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.
I strongly condemn such activity. This type of behaviour is disgusting, is incredibly dangerous and risks the welfare and safety of our farmers, their families and their animals. Farmers are already under intense pressure due to the drought and don’t need any extra stress caused by illegal farm incursions.
More importantly, illegal trespass activity threatens our state’s reputation of producing some of the finest foods and fibres in the world, potentially comprising on-farm biosecurity, resulting in significant economic losses to rural and regional communities.
I am prepared to introduce legislation in State Parliament to ensure perpetrators face jail time for sabotaging and disrupting legitimate and genuine farming activities.
All NSW citizens, regardless of whether they reside in Bondi or Bourke, should be afforded the same protection from people illegally entering their properties.
That’s why I have commissioned an urgent review of all of the existing trespass and biosecurity laws and regulations to make sure that we have the toughest set of standards to protect our primary producers and their livelihoods.
Where there is concern about animal welfare a robust system is in place to address animal cruelty. I encourage anyone with legitimate concerns to report them to the appropriate enforcement bodies – these are RSPCA NSW, Animal Welfare League NSW, or the NSW Police Force.
The NSW Government has committed to the creation of an Agriculture Commissioner to support farmers across NSW and protect their legal rights. The NSW Agriculture Commissioner will advocate for the protection of farmers from issues associated with increased urbanisation and assist with the implementation of Right to Farm reforms.
I look forward to advancing this agenda in the coming months and ensuring we as a Government adequately protect the rights of our farmers and the quality of life of our rural and regional communities.