Blocked from passing on family farm

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Tony Pedro.
Camera IconTony Pedro. Credit: Shannon Smith

Denmark farmer Tony Pedro wants nothing more than to pass his family farm on to his son.

He has been on the farm for 50 years and now his son Hayden and his wife Kirsty are eager to take over.

But Mr Pedro has been unable to build superannuation and he says planning laws are preventing him from excising a small title from the farm to fund retirement.

The problem for the Pedro family lies in the fact that their Great Southern farm is classified as “prime agricultural land” reserved for agricultural purposes.

Mr Pedro said he was desperate to pass on the family farm, as many other farmers have.

“You get this sense of guilt, feeling like a caretaker when I really want to be able to do what my parents did for me,” Mr Pedro said.

“I would love to be able to pass this farm to the next generation and allow their energy and enthusiasm to contribute to the growth of the local community. “However, State planning policy set up by the government of the past makes this virtually impossible.”

The 485ha farm is now worth more than $2 million, but Mr Pedro wants to keep it in the family, rather than selling it.

He said once it was declared prime agricultural land, he was prevented from doing that.

“(We want to relocate) a boundary to crest a small title that could then be sold to provide superannuation for the retiring generation who are unable to access a pension due to the value of the farm,” he said.

“The younger generation can’t afford to buy the farm and I am unable to gift the farm due to taxation policy.

“The average age of farmers in this valuable land are in the late- 50s and 60s and wishing they could pass the family farm on to the children rather than sell to co-operatives as many are doing currently.

“More or less, it is setting us up so that you have to die here or sell it.”

As for why he had not built up more superannuation, he said the answer was simple.

“A small beef farm (100 cows) has a net income of $25,000 to $35,000 — enough to raise a small family and live on, but with little opportunity to save,” he said.

Mr Pedro has managed to save $100,000 which is what he intends to retire with if he cannot find an alternative.

He explained the issue to Denmark councillors at this month’s council meeting.

Cr Janine Phillips agreed with his concerns, noting that her family were farmers and wanted to do the same thing with their land.

She said she was unsure of a solution.

Cr Jan Lewis proposed a workshop for farmers to discuss barriers to generational farming.

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