Protecting Rights of Farmers
Agriculture plays an important role in contributing to social, economic and environmental sustainability. The agriculture sector is the strength of an economy which provides basic ingredients to mankind, raw material for industrialisation and in goods for export and other purposes. Farmers’ rights are essential for the maintenance of crop genetic diversity, which is the basis of all food and agricultural production. Basically, farmers’ rights mean allowing them to maintain and develop crop genetic resources as they have done since ages before.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture describes farmers rights as the customary rights of farmers to save, use, exchange and sell farm seeds and propagating material, their rights to be recognised, rewarded and supported for their contribution to the global pool of genetic resources as well as to the development of commercial varieties of plants, and to participate in decision-making on issues related to crop genetic resources.
The first legal recognition of farmer rights was done in the International Undertaking of Plant Genetic Resources. Though there are farmers’ right but the unconventional gas mining is exploiting them.
Onshore gas deposits are often located under farms, and gas companies negotiate access agreement with farmers and provide compensation for the disruption of their farms. Ultimately, farmers have no legal right to refuse the gas company from accessing their farmland. Farmers are fighting to keep mining companies off their property. They are worried about the effects of exploratory drilling on their land.
Farmers are advised to immediately consult property lawyers in Melbourne for legal advice and representation when they receive notice of intent from a gas mining company to seek land access, as there are specified timeframes in which farmers need to respond and begin negotiations. Probing in the property lawyer is the best way to ensure all rights and interests are protected. By law, the company is required to pay reasonable costs for farmers getting such initial advice. Recently, Government has made a commitment to amend the law to require a gas company to pay reasonable legal cost for the entire land access negotiation period.
The mining companies need a licence to explore privately owned or public land. The process and provision of any work program to obtain such permission varies. Property lawyers will help the farmers in negotiating on their behalf with the mining companies and they also have extensive knowledge of environmental and land law. If an agreement cannot be agreed within the specified period, independent settlement can be undertaken. If access is granted, the property lawyer will attempt to facilitate agreement on a land access between the farmer and the gas company. If agreement cannot be reached, the lawyer can decide on the agreement. If the outcome still does not satisfy a party, the matter can be taken to the State court dealing with planning, environment and land matters.
The gas mining companies must provide Land Access Agreement (LAA) to farmers prior to accessing their property that includes the conditions of entry. The Government must also give farmers more rights when mining companies are negotiating access to potential gas or coal reserves on their property.