EU’s Surprising Legislation Sends Shockwaves Through International Agriculture and Puts Aussie Farmers at Risk

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When the EU sneezes, Australia catches a cold—as the European Union unleashes an unexpected legislative storm, the repercussions are felt across continents, leaving Australian farmers in the eye of an agricultural tempest.

In April, the European Parliament enacted groundbreaking legislation to address global deforestation, mandating that products sold within the EU must not contribute to deforestation or forest degradation.

Beyond the European Union (EU) itself, other countries have been significantly affected by this recent legislation.

The European Parliament approved a landmark law to combat worldwide deforestation in April. It obligates companies to ensure that the products they sell in the EU do not contribute to deforestation or forest degradation.

However, this measure has had vast implications for nations outside the bloc, particularly Australia, where land clearance has long been contentious.

Australian farmers contend that their country’s distinctive geographical and climatic conditions necessitate different agricultural systems and practices, and they argue that the new law has hindered their export opportunities.

Efficient Farming Methods

In Australia, some farmers employ sound agricultural practices in raising livestock and cultivating crops.

For example, a farm manager, Matt Cummins, oversees over 10,000 acres of land in Bobbara Station, situated in the rural heart of New South Wales, one of Australia’s most productive agricultural regions.

Mr Cummins, who manages 1,000 cattle and 10,000 sheep, explained, “This project was initiated in the early 90s to address the local salinity issue and stabilise the water table in the area. To ensure a sustainable and profitable enterprise, additional native trees have been planted in recent years, enriching the soil and stabilising the water supply underground.”

However, thousands of kilometres to the north in Queensland, rampant deforestation has stripped the landscape and threatened native wildlife, primarily due to land clearing driven by beef production.

According to Tim Beshara, the federal policy director of the environmental non-governmental organisation The Wilderness Society, land clearing in the state currently occurs at a rate of approximately 500,000 hectares per year.

“That amounts to about half a million hectares annually and has had a detrimental impact on numerous endangered species,” he added.

Withdrawing From Free Trade Negotiations

The new EU law prohibits the importation of beef and other agricultural products linked to deforestation. Companies importing goods into the EU must now provide evidence that the products originate from land not cleared since 2020.

This development has raised concerns among specific sectors of the agricultural community and lawmakers in Australia.

For the government in Canberra, this law presents a dilemma. While Australia is eager to finalise a free trade agreement with the EU, reservations about the impact on its agricultural exports could severely compromise the ongoing negotiations.

The Australian government has even hinted at the possibility of withdrawing from the trade talks—a firm stance that has garnered support from the Australian National Farmers’ Federation.

“Our message to the government is clear: do not sign a free trade agreement if it comes at the expense of Australian farmers,” stated Tony Maher, CEO of the federation, in an interview with CNA.

“We support free trade, but we do not want Australian agriculture to be undermined by a free trade agreement restricting our ability to export and develop our domestic industry.”

Promoting Positive Transformation

While some argue that the unique circumstances in Australia have led farmers to adopt different practices compared to their European counterparts, others believe that the new legislation can facilitate positive change.

According to Mr Beshara, the EU’s recent law could prove advantageous for Australian farmers, most of whom oppose deforestation.

“I genuinely believe that this is a wonderful opportunity for Australian farmers. Once we address the issue of land clearing, Australia will be at the forefront for selling agricultural products and receiving financial support from Europe,” he expressed.

For Mr Cummins and his farm at Bobbara Station, the focus lies less on politics and more on practising good animal care and employing effective agricultural methods.

“Every aspect of our livelihood relies on how we care for our land. We must ensure its stability, as it forms the very essence of our existence. The Australian agricultural sector is resilient, thriving, and driven by passionate individuals and companies,” he emphasised.

Australian farmers have always maintained optimism in the face of recurring floods and droughts, and now they must address the issue of deforestation to establish a solid presence in one of the world’s wealthiest markets.

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