NATIONAL Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson said agriculture needed to ‘disrupt’ business as usual with ‘Regional Agriculture Deals’ for the sector to realise its potential.
Ms Simson addressed the National Press Club in Canberra today, focussing on the NFF’s vision for agriculture to achieve a farm gate output of $100 billion by 2030, a goal that has the support of the Federal Government.
Ms Simson acknowledged the drought conditions on the east coast, but said farmers would not be defined by the tough times.
“Agriculture is not only an industry with a special place in our past, but also an exciting place in our future.
“Australia’s farm sector as a whole has continued to outperform its industrial counterparts in terms of growth,” she said.
“Today Australian agriculture powers 1.6 million jobs across the supply chain.
“One in every 7 export dollars Australia earns is from farm produce.”
The NFF is developing a ‘roadmap’ to take the farm sector to $100 billion, which includes new ideas such as the establishment of Regional Agriculture Deals.
“We’ll need to challenge the status quo right along the value chain to achieve what is about a 70 percent growth on farm sector’s value of $63 billion in 2016-2017.
“Regional Agriculture Deals would provide a whole new, strategic take, on how we approach agriculture in this country,” Ms Simson said.
Regional Agriculture Deals would broker a strategic partnership between Federal, state and local governments – to further the agricultural growth of regions delineated by common markets and clustered industries, the Liverpool Plains farmer said. She cited northern Australia as a potential test case for the Regional Agriculture Deal concept.
“I recently visited the Ord region & the opportunities are plain to see. Brokering a Regional Agriculture Deal between local, state and Federal authorities would facilitate investment in much-needed built and environmental infrastructure.
“It would also serve as a blueprint for other deals – such as in my home region of the Liverpool Plains, or the Mallee of Victoria,” Ms Simson said.
“The approach would provide our rural communities a new identity for the future and a catalyst for investment.
“All this would serve to enhance the vibrancy and social fabric of our regional towns.”
Ms Simson said $100 billion was also contingent on solving agriculture’s workforce woes; finding new capital sources for farmers; the successful adoption of new digital technologies and the retention of the positive profile for Australian.
The NFF is calling for a new visa to directly cater for agriculture’s skills shortage and, with industry, is developing clear rules for the use of ‘big’ farm data.
“We’re also exploring the establishment of a body to educate the public about farm practices and to dismiss the mis-truths,” Ms Simson said.