Friday 20 December, 2013
As we approach the end of 2013, the NFF looks back on what has been a dynamic and action-packed year for the agricultural sector. As the past 12 months has demonstrated, the need for agriculture to be reprioritised on the national agenda remains as critical as ever.
This year has been one of contradictions: from fires, to flooding rains, to severe drought conditions. Yet despite a challenging year for many farmers, the forecasts for Australian agriculture continue to look bright, with strong export forecasts predicted. And the next 12 months will bring with it an additional reason to celebrate, with 2014 marking the International Year of the Family Farmer.
The NFF has continued to drive the agricultural policy agenda this year - launching the NFF-led industry-developed Blueprint for Australian Agriculture, securing major commitments for the major parties in the lead up to the Federal Election, working with three Prime Ministers and three Agricultural Ministers to achieve wins on behalf of our farmers - on everything from helping to secure the Korean free trade agreement to ensuring native title funding is reinstated, and ensuring a cap on buybacks within the Murray Darling Basin-Plan.
The NFF's annual AGM and Members' Council was held in Canberra last month, electing Queensland grazier Brent Finlay as the NFF's 12 President, taking the reins from former NFF President Duncan Fraser.
Christine Rolfe was appointed as NFF Vice President, and Fiona Simson (NSW Farmers), Peter Tuohey (Victorian Farmers Federation), Ian Burnett (AgForce QLD), David Jochinke (Victorian Farmers Federation) and Les Gordon (Ricegrowers' Association of Australia) were elected to form the new NFF Board.
NFF President Brent Finlay. Photo courtesy Col Jackson, Blue's Country Magazine
The Federal Government's first Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) was released this week, reporting a $16.8 billion budget blowout, driven by a weaker economy and recent spending decisions. The figures show this year's deficit will blow out to $47 billion, resulting in the Government dumping its election promise to deliver a surplus in the first year of a second term.
For the farm sector, the MYEFO has flagged cuts to the digital business kits program, foreshadowed as an opportunity to build better awareness of the digital economy in rural and regional areas. Funding has also been cut for the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy, and there has also been a continued redirection of funding in the Caring for Our Country and Carbon Farming Initiative programs.
Seeking funding directed towards agriculture in this extremely tight fiscal environment remains a key priority for the NFF.
After four years of intense negotiations, the Prime Minister recently announced that Australia is set to sign the free trade agreement (FTA) with Korea - a move strongly welcomed by Australian farmers, particularly those in the red meat, grains, dairy, sugar, pork and horticulture sectors.
Korea is Asia's fourth largest economy and Australia's third largest market, with a $30 billion AUD two way trade underway, and is predicted that Australian exports to Korea will lift by 73 percent by 2030, making this FTA a critically important trade deal.
While the deal doesn't deliver everything the agricultural sector has advocated for, most notably the exclusion of rice, the agreement is a strong step towards securing Australia's trade within the Asian region and improving international market access for Australian goods. For more, read our media release.
Last week, the NFF held the second Blueprint for Australian Agriculture forum, bringing together 130 key industry leaders and decision makers to progress the Blueprint.
The forum was held only days after the Minister for Agriculture announced the terms of reference for the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. Importantly, the Minister confirmed that the White Paper will build on the Blueprint - reinforcing the Blueprint's importance as a key strategic plan for the agricultural sector. For more information on the Blueprint, please see here.
The President, Board, CEO and staff of the NFF wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year. We thank you for your support in 2013, and we look forward to working with you again in 2014.
Please note that the NFF office will be closed from 12pm, Tuesday 24 December 2013, reopening 8:30am, Monday 6 January 2014.
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