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Report fails to acknowledge crucial role of farmers

16 February 2012

A report into the future food needs of Australia has failed to acknowledge the ongoing work by Australia’s farmers in ensuring an environmentally sustainable supply of fresh and nutritious food, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has today said.

NFF President Jock Laurie said that farmers had made enormous gains in both productivity and environmental management over the past few decades: producing high quality food in greater quantities, on less land, with less water and less impact on the environment that ever before.

“The report released yesterday by the Public Health Association of Australia appears to reflect the lack of understanding health professionals have about modern agriculture in Australia and how the industry operates,” Mr Laurie said.

“Rather than focus on the public health challenges associated with modern diets and lifestyles, they seem to have chosen to attack Australian farmers and attempted to weaken the confidence of Australian’s in the food farmers produce.

“Australian farmers have been working hard to improve their practices, and have led the way in reducing our carbon footprint, with greenhouse gas emissions down by a massive 40 percent in the last 20 years.

“The agricultural industry also invests heavily in research and development to continuously improve practices and performance, with $1.5 billion-a-year spent on agricultural related research in Australia.

“On the ground, farmers occupy and manage 61 percent of Australia’s land, which means that we’re at the frontline in delivering environmental outcomes on behalf of the community and we are acutely aware of the need to deal with environmental impacts. Environmental sustainability has long been a critical factor for farmers – so much so that the NFF was a founding partner of the Landcare movement over 20 years ago.

“Perhaps most importantly, the report fails to acknowledge the role that Australian agriculture plays in feeding the world. Australian farmers produce enough food to feed 60 million people each year, so the statement in the report that ‘Australia produces more food than it needs’ is disingenuous. Of course we do – we export 60 percent of what we grow, offsetting global food demand and providing vital export income for our economy.

“The report itself calls for an increase in ‘food literacy’ – perhaps this needs to be an increase in ‘farming and food literacy’.

“The report also calls for strategies to ensure Australian farmers can continue to produce fresh, nutritious foods at a fair and competitive price. We agree with this outcome, but suggest that the Public Health Association of Australia should first talk to farmers about how to achieve it,” Mr Laurie said.

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