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Trade, workforce development and climate action are the key priorities for Australian farming, says NFF

Australia's National Farmers Federation (NFF) is petitioning the government to make further investments in trade development, climate adaptation and the agricultural workforce ahead of the 11 May federal budget.

by Megan Howell
10 May 2021, at 7:30am

The NFF’s ask for $400 million over four years to fix Australia’s ailing biosecurity system was addressed this week, with the Government committing the lion’s share of that amount to cutting edge science and digital technologies; emergency plans; and the bolstering of frontline resources.

“The investment builds a solid foundation to tackle this critical issue while work continues to determine a long-term renewable biosecurity funding stream,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.

Mr Mahar said farmers would also be looking for new money for the development of a long-term trade strategy that strengthened existing market access and diversified the overall portfolio.

“Australian agriculture is highly export dependent, more than 75% of what we produce is exported. Recent COVID-19 related disruptions have demonstrated how fragile and transient some of our export supply chains are.

“To counter these headwinds, a long-term trade strategy that deepens access to existing markets, diversifies export destinations, improves supply chains, and builds domestic value-adding capabilities is a must.”

Mr Mahar said a critical lack of farm workers continued to constrain agriculture’s growth and the perennial shortage had been exasperated by COVID-19 border restrictions.

“We welcomed the release of the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy earlier this year. It is now time for the Government to commit the investment needed to make the recommendations a reality.

“Specifically, the NFF is calling for funding for the development of an agriculture apprenticeship-style qualification and a consultation pipeline that ensures VET courses and qualifications match the real world needs of the sector.

“A dedicated agriculture visa solution also continues to be a top priority for farmers.”

Mr Mahar said in this Budget, the Government had a one in 100-year opportunity to put serious investment and strategic planning towards the revitalisation of regional Australia.

“The NFF is backed by other leading industry voices in our call for the development of 20 place-based development precincts across Regional Australia.

“Key to regional Australia reaching its potential is access to quality telecommunications.

“We’re asking for more than $400 million over the forward estimates to expand mobile phone services and to support regional Australians in getting connected.”

The NFF welcomed the $68.5 million announced for the expansion of digital connectivity in our nation’s north.

Mr Mahar said agriculture also required Government support to contribute to the nation’s emissions reduction task.

“The sector backs an economy-wide aspiration of net zero emissions by 2050, provided it is economically sound and government policy is not unnecessarily detrimental to the industry.

“Investment in RD&E that supports better understanding of climate impacts and opportunities is critical to support adaptation and mitigation processes,” Mr Mahar said.

See the NFF’s 2021-2022 Pre-Budget Submission here.