ON AGENDA: Southern Downs farmers are forced to absorb high energy prices to keep operations running.
ON AGENDA: Southern Downs farmers are forced to absorb high energy prices to keep operations running. Craig Warhurst

Farmers say it's high time to act on energy prices

SOUTHERN Downs farmers are being stung by high energy prices and with a coming state election, it is hoped to be a hot topic on the agenda.

Gladfield dairy farmer Paul Bourke from Myrtle Holme said he had noticed price rises, particularly in the past 18 months to two years.

Energy is vital to a number of processes at the farm, so Mr Bourke has had to absorb the price rises to keep operations ticking along.

"It affects our cooling of the milk, that's a major cost and especially in dry times the irrigation costs too,” Mr Bourke said.

"It's just a cost you've got to wear, if you don't irrigate you don't grow feed and you can't feed your cattle.

"We irrigate 90% of a night-time because of the cheap rate, but the cheap rate is ridiculously priced now too.

"Everyone tells you to be more efficient but there's only so efficient you can get.”

Mr Bourke said two centre pivots had been installed to enhance efficiency and reduce pumping costs.

But rising prices had put pressure on the farm.

"You just make less at the end of the day your expenses are higher,” he said.

Mr Bourke said he hoped politicians would address the issue in the coming election, but was frustrated it had not been dealt with thus far.

"Surely someone could have seen the foresight and started organising something earlier,” he said.

"It's like petrol prices - they can do what they want and people still need it.

"They leave everything until they actually have to do something, until it's dire straits.

"They might talk about it but whether anything gets done or not, that's the big question.

"I hope something is done about it but usually when things go up they hardly ever go down.”

Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage said the ongoing energy crisis was not new for farmers in the state.

Mr Armitage said the farmers had experienced price increases of at least 130% over the past decade, putting the future of regional farming in jeopardy.

"The viability of farming and other regional businesses continues to be challenged, almost solely due to the rising cost of electricity,” Mr Armitage said.

"For our sector, it has been a long road getting governments to take this issue seriously and to start committing to genuine action to deal with it.”

Mr Armitage said governments seemed to now be paying attention to the issue, but they were playing catch-up.

"We have had assurances from politicians over several years for 'downward pressure' on electricity prices, with no reprieve,” he said.

"The time for 'downward pressure' has well and truly passed. Farmers need price relief.”

The future of farming could be heavily guided by action taken on energy price rises, as Mr Bourke said agriculture was being hit from all sides.

This could see fewer family farms operating in the future, he said.

"Less and less smaller farms, getting taken over by bigger farms because they can't remain viable because they need much the same machinery that we do

milking 500 cows,” Mr Bourke said.

Mr Bourke is not sure about the best solution, but at the individual level he has started discussing alternative energy sources for the future.

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