Australia's farm and fish food production is worth $37 billion a year. Annually, $24 billion is made through exports, particularly of grain and meat to Asia. We are the No. 2 exporter of meat to the world market. Australian farmers feed 60 million people a day.

This morning, at the CSIRO's first Science for Breakfast of the year, the focus was on food security. CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship Director Dr Brian Keating reiterated the old phrase that humankind is only three meals away from chaos. He is right, of course. Australia has a significant role to play in the global food task. This job is going to get bigger in the years ahead as the world's population increases from seven billion to nine billion by 2050. That is a lot more hungry mouths. 

At the breakfast, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans, said there was 'a growing understanding within the parliament about these issues'. I would argue that there should be, rather than a growing understanding, a thorough knowledge already of food security matters, because food production and safeguarding Australian farmers in issues of biosecurity, cheap imports, foreign takeovers of farmland and agribusiness and water availability ought to be paramount. 
Sadly, farmers are underrated and undervalued by this government. We saw that yesterday with the end of a 150-year alpine cattle-grazing tradition. We saw it with the live cattle export fiasco last year, Labor's cave-in on New Zealand apple imports, the Asian bee incursion and the absolute farce that is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. This is sadder still given that 2012 is the Australian Year of the Farmer. (Time expired)

Cristy Houghton