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Government needs to commit to rural R&D

3 May 2011

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) today urged the Government to reinforce its commitment to rural research and development funding.

The NFF has been deeply concerned by the draft recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s review of the Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDC) that point towards a dramatic reduction in funding for agricultural research.

“The NFF is adamant that innovation from research and development plays a vital role in boosting production and sustainability in agriculture,” said NFF President, Jock Laurie.
“The Government sat on the Productivity Commission report and delayed any response to its recommendations since February. With the Federal Budget being delivered next week, Australian farmers are understandably anxious about the future of rural research and development that has been so crucial to the sector staying ahead of declining terms of trade over the past 20 years.

“The benefits from agricultural research and development to the Australian community are tremendous, with analysis by the Rural Research and Development Corporations indicating that the return on investment delivered an average return of $11 for every dollar spent.

“The last thing Australian agriculture needs is a ‘left-field’ decision to cut funding to research and development as occurred with Land & Water Australia in the 2009-10 budget. The NFF would be outraged if this was to occur.

“The Government must avoid a piecemeal approach to reforming rural research and development that looks to pick off funding for various research delivery mechanisms in isolation. That kind of “scatter gun” approach will not lead to the best outcomes for Government policy or the best on-the-ground outcomes for farmers.

“Instead, a coordinated response is needed that looks across research delivery in the rural sector and identifies where streamlining can best occur. In the last 12 months the Government has received advice from all quarters on the importance of agricultural research and development, including the Government’s own Rural Research and Development Council, an Expert Working Group of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) and numerous submissions, including from its own Departments, to the Productivity Commission.

“In all these reviews the NFF has consistently highlighted that research and development remains critical to the future of agriculture. If we are serious about addressing issues like climate change and getting outcomes in the Murray Darling Basin then it is crucial that there is continued investment in research and development,” reinforced Mr Laurie.

“The NFF calls on the Australian Government to reverse the decline in agricultural research and development funding, and re-enforce Australia’s position as a leader in international rural research.”

[ENDS]

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