Miners cost farmers $61.5 billion

The mining boom has cost farmers $61.5 billion in export income after pushing the Australian dollar to historic highs, according to research from left-leaning think tank The Australia Institute.

In a statement yesterday TAI said its research showed farmers' export earnings had dropped 47 per cent since the mining boom ramped up in 2003-04.

“The mining boom is great if you work in the mining industry. But for other sectors in the Australian economy which rely on export earnings the boom has come at an enormous cost,” TAI senior economist Matt Grudnoff said.

“Our farmers are price-takers not price-setters. This has meant that the surge in the Australian dollar due to the mining boom has had the knock-on effect of reducing the value of their exports.”

Among the industries impacted, Grudnoff said the cotton sector had lost $1.3 billion in 2011-12 and $2.5 billion over the nine years of the boom, while the wheat industry lost $3 billion in 2011-12 and $8.3 billion over nine years.

Grudnoff also said the beef and veel industry had suffered greatly, along with the sugar sector.

“For the Australian economy to remain strong it needs to have many viable industries,” he said.

“If the mining boom is allowed to ruin the rural sector then who will be left to fill the employment gap when the mining boom ends.

“History is full of examples of economies that failed because they were too reliant on a few industries.”

The trade-off between the resource sector's economic benefit and impact on the exchange rate is a hotly contested topic in the industry.

The Reserve Bank has previously hosed down fears about mining's negative impact on the wider economy, and released research last year showing half of the new jobs created in the coming years could be in sectors related to the mining industry.

TAI has released a host of negative research on the mining industry since its inception.

The think tank's current executive director, Richard Denniss, formerly worked as a strategy advisor for the Greens.

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