The peak farming representative group is calling for more transparency on the investments made in Australia by foreign investors.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling for a compulsory national land register, to keep track of foreign interest in Australian agricultural land.
It would require any person or company not from Australia which acquire or transfer an interest in agricultural land to report the sale in a specified timeframe.
The NFF also wants the records to be made public.
“We are also calling for an annual report of the register findings to be published, summarising any changes to the holdings of agricultural land held by foreign interests,” president Jock Laurie said.
“This report will trigger an annual review of the policy settings around foreign investment, including the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) reporting threshold for agricultural land purchases by commercial interests.”
Earlier this year there were suggestions that Australians needed more transparency about modern farming practices, which were only fuelled by a Primary Industries Education Foundation research project, which found school children think yoghurt grows on trees and cotton socks are an animal product.
Laurie acknowledged the benefits foreign investment had provided for Australia’s agricultural industry, but said NFF members are concerned about the number of foreign interests in Australian farming land, which is ensuring food security for other countries and leaving us behind.
“At the core, the NFF supports foreign investment in Australian agriculture – provided that it does not negatively distort our resource allocations or outputs, does not undermine our farm gate prices, and is not undertaken with the intent of damaging competition in the marketplace,” Laurie said.
“While there have been some calls for the FIRB threshold to be lowered, we believe to do so at this point would be premature.
“This debate has long been described as a debate without data – and, in order to suggest a suitable FIRB threshold, we must first know what land is owned by whom- based on real data, not just a survey sample,” he added.
Do you agree with the suggested register? Do we need to know more about foreign farming interests in Australia?