Markets are abuzz over investment in Queensland’s coal seam gas (CSG) sector, but with limited water supply the agricultural industry faces tough times ahead, according to the Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF).
QFF chief executive Dan Galligan says while the government has supported CSG growth, many developments are in areas with highly productive soils.
“It’s about competing access for resources, particularly water and the fact that there is mining affects farmers’ access to that,” he says.
“In the Murray-Darling Basin the farmers are about to face a reduction in access to water, so it’s a case of one sector expanding quickly and the other contracting.”
Galligan points to initiatives in water sustainability and efficiency as a positive step, but the challenges posed by CSG have made many farmers reluctant to invest in the future.
“Uncertainty about future access security is what most farmers are worried about. It’s important that farmers can invest in areas for 50 to 100 years or more if they’re going to spend the big bucks,” he says.
“But because of this development they’re not going to spend large amounts of cash for the future.”
He says open cut coal mining is also an issue for farmers, although it has been around for a while and the coal boom has been based more on expansion of existing mines than the establishment of new ones.
“Open cut mining is about the destruction of the surface, but coal seam gas production is a whole different kettle of fish,” says Galligan.
“Open cut mining alienates agricultural production from the resources that are there – some of the science around rehabilitation of land is good, but the sheer difficulty of rehabilitating land that once was used for cropping is almost impossible. High value crops require high value soil.”
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