ORCHARDISTS hope Greens leader Christine Milne’s visit to Orange yesterday will result in some of their carbon tax concerns going back to the government.
The cost of cool storage, which growers estimate could rise by several thousand dollars per year under the carbon tax, was one aspect which Senator Milne admits may have been overlooked by the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee on which she sat.
While she ruled out compensation as an option, Senator Milne said there may be other ways to help farmers reduce their power costs.
“Most of the submissions talked about the impact on processing,” she said. “ I think there was not enough thought given to cool storage. My initial reaction is that I think there are ways to use existing programs to facilitate the rollout of renewables and efficiency for operations that have large input costs.”
Fruit grower Guy Gaeta, who estimates his cool storage costs will rise by $5000 per year under the carbon tax, said he welcomed any renewable energy initiative which would assist him.
“We’re price-takers. We can’t pass it on,” he said. “They can pay for the solar panels on my roof, no problem.”
Orchardist Peter West said his power bill for the last month was $6500 even before the introduction of a carbon tax, while fellow grower and NSW Farmers’ Association vice-president Peter Darley estimates his costs will rise by between $10,000 and $12,000 per year when the scheme begins.
He told Senator Milne farmers needed practical help to deal with the problems caused by rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.
“We need coverings for our orchards, rain covers for cherries, nets. That’s a way that we can manage climate change,” he said.
Mr Darley welcomed Senator Milne’s reiteration of support for a $22 million federal government contribution to the Apple Accord, a partnership designed by Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL) to boost the industry’s productivity in the face of exports.
He said Senator Milne’s rural listening tour was welcomed by farmers, even if they sat on the opposite side of the political fence.
“There are a lot of very wide gaps out there,” Mr Darley said. “ I think it’s a start. Politicians have to listen to us as well. She’s a breath of fresh air for The Greens.”