Australian agri body calls for strategic support
Australia’s peak agricultural representative body, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling on Parliament to deliver a long-term strategic focus for the country’s agricultural sector.
Speaking ahead of his address to NFF’s 2012 National Congress, president Jock Laurie said while there are great opportunities ahead for Australian agriculture, seizing them will require long-term vision and government policies that support, not strangle, agriculture.
“Consider this,” Laurie said. “A month ago the Australian Farm Institute released its analysis of the OECD review of national agricultural policies, which shows that Australian agriculture receives the lowest amount of government support for any developed nation on earth.
“Meanwhile, three days ago, ANZ released a report that predicts Australia’s farming sector will be able to grow exports to more than $1.7 trillion over the next four decades – provided we can overcome the challenges of an aging workforce, rising productivity costs, natural resource constraints and competition for land.
“These two reports say it all: despite the lack of support, Australian agriculture has enormous potential, provided that we are able to overcome the challenges ahead.
“Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard, has herself said that there is the potential for a new golden era of Australian agriculture, given the rise of Asia. The Prime Minister is right: there are enormous opportunities ahead for Australian agriculture given the rise of the Asian Century. In just eight years time, half of the world’s population will live on Australia’s northern doorstep and will be demanding food and fibre of the highest quality.
“Our farmers have a clear competitive advantage, thanks to our proximity to Asia and our clean and natural production systems. But, to make this a reality, we need to overcome the challenge of growing more food and fibre with fewer natural resources – and we need policy that enables us to do so.
“Policy to strengthen our biosecurity and quarantine systems; policy that encourages continued investment in agricultural research and development to boost our productivity growth; policy to ensure that our regulatory systems do not hamper the development of new innovations and technologies; and policy that helps improve international trade opportunities for our farmers.
“We need to ensure policies on land use changes, like urban developments, mining and coal seam gas, do not impact future agricultural production; and that policies are in place to encourage new entrants into our industry to fill future labour needs.
“Most importantly, we need long-term, strategic policies that recognise the important role and contribution of agriculture,” Laurie concluded.
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