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New focus on agricultural issues for NRAC

20 April 2012

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed the announcement that the reinvigorated National Rural Advisory Council (NRAC), chaired by Australian Farm Institute executive director Mick Keogh, will focus on skills and labour shortages in agriculture as well as continue its work on drought policy reform.

NFF President Jock Laurie says the new direction of NRAC, under the new Chair, will ensure a focus on issues that are causing challenges for farmers now, like the shortage of skilled workers in agriculture, and future challenges, like preparing for future droughts.

“NRAC plays an important role in advising the Government on rural issues – and for many years, they were solely focused on helping farmers through drought,” Mr Laurie.

“Now that we’ve moved into more favourable seasonal conditions for farmers, it’s positive to see NRAC playing a strategic role in looking at both the major challenges facing farmers now as well as those that will emerge in the future.

“Given the amount of rainfall and the devastation of the recent floods, it’s hard to believe that the next drought could be just around the corner – but that is an eventuality that all farmers know to be prepared for. We’re used to extremely variable seasonal conditions, and know that droughts and floods will always be part of farming in Australia.

“The important thing is to be ready for this, and to have a commitment from Government for support for farmers in critical drought situations. While farmers and farm businesses are adept at planning for more difficult times, it is essential that Government policy also takes a long-term view.

“It’s promising to see farm management deposits and insurance products for farmers on the NRAC priority list. An effective drought policy needs to focus on both preparing farmers for the next drought during the good seasons, while also acknowledging that there may be periods of drought in the future that will require more than an ad-hoc policy response.

“At the same time, one of the biggest issues confronting farmers in the short-term relates to labour shortages. Right now, farmers across the country are harvesting fruit, preparing to pick cotton and starting to sow their winter crops – this is a critical time on-farm, and the labour shortages are being felt.

“This issue has already been escalated to the federal level, with the NFF taking an active role in encouraging collaboration among the agricultural education sector and key stakeholders, and a Senate Inquiry into higher education and skills in agriculture underway. NRAC will provide an importance voice into Government policy on this critical issue,” Mr Laurie said.

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