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Time for Australia to get real about agriculture

20 October 2014

Showcasing the potential of Australian agriculture and exploring policies for a productive and profitable future will be a key focus of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF)’s 2014 Congress being held in Canberra today.

Speaking ahead of his address to the NFF Congress, President Brent Finlay said that unlocking the potential of Australian agriculture will require greater collaboration of industry and government policies: an approach that helps, not hinders, the advancement of agriculture.

“Right now, there’s great opportunity for Australian agriculture. The world’s population is growing rapidly, and while Australia cannot supply this demand on its own, it can provide a quality, safe and sustainable source of food and fibre for overseas markets,” Mr Finlay said.

“At the same time, we must overcome significant challenges on the domestic front. Some of these include the need to increase productivity, improve farm-gate profitability and build closer links with the Australian community.

“As a nation – we need to seize this opportunity. Government can play its part by enacting policies that allow farmers and agribusiness to be internationally competitive in the production of world-class food and fibre.

“In particular, we will be looking to the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper to set a sound and sensible pathway forward on key issues like profitability, trade, infrastructure, natural resource management and labour needs,” Mr Finlay said.

Mr Finlay also warned that certain prevailing myths hampered, rather than helped, the advancement of Australian agriculture and strong leadership was needed to address some of the key challenges faced by the sector.

“Australia doesn’t have to be the biggest producer of basic agricultural commodities. We can, however, drive our production towards meeting specific market requirements and gaining recognition for premium products in markets,” Mr Finlay said.

“We will never be the food bowl of Asia. However, the opportunity for Australia to be a ‘delicatessen’ of desired produce is very real.

“Success comes in all forms. As we’ve said, it’s not necessarily about being the biggest, it’s about identifying what we want to do and doing it well. This all ties in with our commitment to innovation, best practice and the need for ongoing investment into the agricultural sector," Mr Finlay said.

Mr Finlay said that while looking at market opportunities for Australian food and fibre was a priority, the sector also needed to have strong representation at the national level.

“As part of this year’s Congress, the NFF will present the findings of the Review into the Future of Farm Sector Representation. The findings form part of an ongoing review of farm sector representation undertaken by the NFF and its members,” Mr Finlay said.

Over 300 delegates and 30 speakers will converge on Canberra for the two-day Congress, which will focus on the theme: producing our future, from grassroots to global.

Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, will today open the Congress and Opposition Leader, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP, will address delegates tomorrow.

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