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Cost of electricity hurting farmers

SAVE OUR SUGAR: Farmer Dean Cayley is appalled by ERGON's high power bills. Photo: Simon Young / NewsMail
SAVE OUR SUGAR: Farmer Dean Cayley is appalled by ERGON's high power bills. Photo: Simon Young / NewsMail Simon Young

BUNDABERG farmers are calling for federal candidates to make electricity costs a key focus of their campaign, fearing rising power bills will force growers off the land as the industry becomes unviable.

Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group (BRIG) manager Dale Holliss said one of the biggest issues facing Bundaberg's farmers this election was the cost of electricity.

"We need cheaper electricity now. It is as simple as that," he said.

Mr Holliss said in seven years Australia has gone from having the cheapest electricity in the world to the highest.

"Unsustainable electricity prices are forcing irrigators to switch off electric pumps," he said.

"This in turn is leading to a massive slump in productivity.

"The reality is that most farmers are now very worried. Worried about how they are going to pay their bills because of the escalating cost of inputs such as electricity."

Third generation Alloway cane grower Dean Cayley said in the past two years his bills had almost doubled and, if the trend continued, he feared pumping water will become unviable, hurting the entire community.

"Dry farming is less profitable and means less money spent in town - it will have a roll on effect," he said.

"I don't know how a young fellow buying a farm would make any money."

With this quarter's bill at $14,000, Mr Cayley fears the next two quarters will be even higher.

"In the October -December quarter last year we had a $22,000 bill and we irrigated for 40 of the 90 days," he said.

"If we get a dry spell it's going to be really nasty."

BRIG has called on all party's to commit to a food and fibre tariff on which primary producers pay no network charges, abolish the carbon tax and abolish the renewable energy target increase to 20% by 2020 to reduce electricity prices.

Liberal candidate Keith Pitt and Labor candidate Leanne Donaldson have committed to abolishing the carbon tax but Labor has committed to keeping the RET; Mr Pitt said his party would review the target in 2015.

Independent candidate Reid Schirmer, Family First's Troy Sullivan, Palmer United Party's Rob Messenger and Katter's David Dalgleish have supported any moves to reduce electricity prices.

Greens candidate Mark Simpson said the Greens would fund $100 million worth of grants to energy-intensive farms but believes the carbon tax and the RET were vital.

Topics:  cane farmer electricity bills federal election 2013



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