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Coalition ‘smart’ on R&D & practical environmental solutions

5 August 2010

THE Coalition’s Agriculture Policy, released today, embraces major initiatives driven by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) to resurrect Australia’s flagging investment in essential productivity-based research and development (R&D) for agriculture and seizes upon practical on-farm environmental solutions.

“The Coalition’s policy combines a range of key measures that, collectively, will improve the capacity of Australian farmers to meet increasing challenges for food and fibre production,” NFF President David Crombie explained.

Research boost

“The refocus on R&D, increasing Commonwealth funding by 25% (from $1.00 to $1.25 for every $1.00 contributed by industry), arrests a dramatic decline in an area that underpins our global competitiveness.

“An injection of $150 million over three years, as well as a commitment to foster agricultural sciences, is a much-needed shot-in-the-arm for Australia’s farm production.

“The link between research and productivity growth is well established. Over the past 30 years our farmers have led productivity growth in Australia, with average rates of 2.8% annually, but this has been under threat due to funding shortfalls and recent cuts.

“R&D empowers farmers’ capacity to, in smart ways, increase food production from limited resources. This fulfils Australian consumer desires for quality, fresh, reliable, environmentally-sustainable and reasonably-priced food and, increasingly, our ability to meet bourgeoning world demands.

Environmental solutions

“Practical solutions announced by the Coalition today to partner with farmers in delivering on-farm environmental works through proactive farm management, are equally smart and well-targeted.

“The ‘Water Works’ Programme of $50 million over four years to enable farmers to invest in water-saving activities through stock water upgrades, improving grazing practices and protecting environmental assets, is a ‘real world’ initiative to make a ‘real world’ difference.

“Funding for renewable energy pumps to transition farmers from fossil fuel power sources to options such as solar-powered pumps, will make them lower-cost and foster sensible and practical adoption of environmentally-friendly technologies. This will be welcomed by remote communities who bitterly disappointed by the axing of the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program.

“The Saltbush, Fodder Tree and Blue Mallee Planting Programme is another smart initiative that demonstrates how providing incentives for farmers to improve productivity and enhance preparedness for drought can lead to positive environmental outcomes, particularly in terms of carbon mitigation.

“The carbon mitigation potential of outback Australia, particularly in the areas of vegetation regrowth and feral pest eradication, is extensive. This programme, combined with the Coalition’s proposal of a Feral Animal Control Programme, could signal a positive kick-start to Australia capitalising on carbon opportunities.

“Investment to fully understand Australian agriculture’s net carbon footprint is welcomed. Regardless of domestic policy responses to climate change, this highlights that commercial drivers will be increasingly important influences on demand for Australian agricultural produce.

“For example, this $8 million commitment will help us to complete the picture of Australia’s net carbon position in food and fibre production, compare it with overseas competitors and inform our ongoing efforts to position Australian food and fibre supply to meet consumer expectations both here and overseas.

Other issues

“We await further announcements, for example on a National Infrastructure Strategy, Water Policy in the Murray-Darling Basin and a commitment to fully fund and implement ‘pre-border’, ‘at border’ and ‘post-border’ Beale Review reforms to our biosecurity system.

“That said, the Coalition’s Agriculture Policy is sound and will be welcomed by Australian farmers and regional communities.”

[ENDS]

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