Towards the end of Pip Courtney's Landline program on coal seam gas (CSG) there is a good news story depicting a group of happy landholders. The cattle graze contentedly near the well pads, the CSG company is co-operative and the 60-70 wells provide a handy earner for the farmers. Yet, she reports, another farmer cried when told he was going to have wells on his farm. Why such vastly different responses to the potential and impacts of CSG on farmers' land? As Landline reported, the Queensland Valuer General found even one well could mean a reduction of 12% in the value of a property. The situation appears not to have improved, but is complicated by a depressed property market and insufficient sales data to provide definitive evidence about the impact of CSG operations on land values. The interim Senate inquiry report was told that compensation agreements do not take into account potential loss of land values, only loss of annual production. At the Dalby Senate inquiry hearings, Ian Hallyor, chair of the Basin Sustainability Alliance, spoke for farmers generally when he said:
"What we are saying is that when we see properties advertised as an asset to the business you will know that the compensation is about right and the environmental impacts are being managed."
Many farmers believe the market is telling them they are not getting a fair deal. In this article I have concentrated on the Queensland portion of the Surat Basin, which has witnessed dramatic development in recent years. I grew up on a farm in the northern part of the basin, still have relatives there, know some farmers there and have maintained a general interest in issues relating to the production and trade of agricultural goods. I've combed through the interim report of the inquiry into management of the Murray-Darling Basin impact of mining coal seam gas, conducted by the Senate Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee (hereafter Senate report), several submissions, the record of hearings at Roma, Dalby and Brisbane and other material in order to try to capture the divergent views from farmers on this issue -- I've also spoken to several farmers and some representatives of farmer organisations. Farmers in this area are mainly engaged in growing food or fibre in broadacre cultivation and in cattle grazing, or a combination of the two, some with feedlots. There is some more intensive development, such as horticulture (Chinchilla is famous for watermelons, for example). Some hundreds are irrigators, including those drawing from underground aquifers.

Irrigation channels on cotton farm