OPINION: DRIVING AUSTRALIAN AGRICULTURE FORWARD
This year National Agriculture Day is being celebrated along with the theme #GrowforGood.
This is a great opportunity to pause and consider the incredible good work our amazing farmers do while acknowledging the agricultural industry’s broader purpose and benefits, beyond the farm gate.
While our farmers are working away with daily dirt under their fingernails, getting the good job done for our nation, they’re not alone.
Everyone in the wider agribusiness sector deserves praise for their unyielding efforts putting affordable, high quality, nutritious food on family tables, on supermarket shelves and in restaurants, school canteens and so many other places.
From those studying agricultural degrees and veterinary sciences, through to students working at grain recieval bins during harvest while on summer break, farm-hands driving harvesters or rounding-up livestock, farm advisers and accountants crunching the numbers, agronomists scrutinising the weather and testing soils and those toiling away in food processing, packing plants or meat-works.
Everyone plays an integral part in the continuing success story of Australian farming, including strong backing from the Australian Government which provides a solid foundation, through multiple investments.
And there are many good reasons why we do this work, to serve the national interest; not just because consuming good quality food – an apple a day as they say – is a basic requirement for better health and happiness.
According to the latest figures, Australian farm production is forecast to be $60 billion for 2018-19 and according to the three-year average, 70 per cent will be exported.
The National Farmers’ Federation has an aspirational goal to transform the farm sector into a $100 billion industry by 2030 which is an ambition supported by the Liberal and Nationals’ Government.
This is because we recognise the vast potential of our high quality Australian farm products such as beef, wool, lamb and dairy; especially selling more into hungry, booming Asian export markets.
When Australian agriculture is strong so too are our regional economies and communities and when our regions are strong, so too is our nation.
Just this week we announced the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund has been boosted by more than $500 million with many of the projects – in an overall strategic program of more than $3 billion – aiming to secure water supplies; recognising it’s the lifeblood of farming communities.
The Nationals know if you can just add water you can grow more produce, which can bolster economic growth, create jobs and drive social stability, to transform regional communities.
In more recent times, some farming districts have endured one of the worst droughts on record – but we’ve had their backs by providing an additional $1.8 billion in various support programs, including boosting the Farm Household Allowance to deliver more timely and targeted support to those who need it most, on top of our existing support measures
In the Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Portfolio, many projects – not just water infrastructure – strengthen the farm sector’s future prospects, while easing cost and production pressures.
This year’s budget saw more than $75 billion committed to a record 10-year infrastructure pipeline to build and deliver the roads, rail-lines, ports and, services and other facilities which all help generate greater strategic connectivity.
What does this really mean?
Well, if you’re about to harvest grain and store it in a silo somewhere, it means your product can move to markets with greater ease and efficiency and at a lower cost.
We’re talking the same language whether you’re producing avocados, eggs, blueberries or mangoes.
The 1700 kilometre Inland Rail from Brisbane to Melbourne is a prime example of this strategic infrastructure agenda; reducing freight transport costs by an estimated $10 per tonne.
That means more money in farmers’ pockets with this Government recognising inefficiencies must be resolved to deliver cost-saving opportunities of nation-building projects, such as Inland Rail.
And let’s not forget the community safety benefits such projects also achieve.
Inland Rail will ease pressure on our roads and highways, making them safer and less congested by removing an estimated 200,000 truck movements each year as the freight task expands rapidly.
Every dollar the government spends on Inland Rail will also return $2.62 to the Australian economy and add $16 billion to Australia’s Gross State product over its 10-year construction period and 50 year operation, while delivering about 16,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction.
That means great value for money for taxpayers and wealth creation for our economy.
This Government’s investment in major road corridors and highways is also delivering critical safety and efficiency benefits, including on the Bruce Highway in Queensland, Midland Highway in Tasmania and the Pacific Highway in New South Wales.
Reduced road deaths and injuries is also being achieved through other targeted initiatives such as the Black Spot program, Roads to Recovery program, National Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative and Bridges to Renewal program.
Every day is an opportunity for The Nationals – not just once a year on Agriculture Day – to demonstrate our commitment to work for every participant in this immense and vital industry we call Australian agriculture, which impacts us all.
We can’t make it rain, but we can continue to roll-out important projects and strategic investments and initiatives to harvest better yields of affordable, high quality food, for everyone involved in the food and fibre production line.