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Competitiveness on the agenda at NFF Congress

20 October 2014

Today I welcomed the Federal Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper announced by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce MP at our biennial Congress in Canberra.

The announcement inspired a day full of energy and interesting ideas about Australian agriculture, looking at where we are now and where we are headed.

Key messages emerging from the day centred on access to capital, open dialogue and the lifestyle that makes agriculture an attractive choice.

While much of the discussion focused on better returns to the farm gate, better margins at the farm gate was seen as more important. Rural Woman of the Year Pip Job highlighted the need for balance in social, economic and environmental factors as well as astute business acumen.

Congress Principal Sponsor Coles talked about how retailers are the conduit between farmers and consumers and how important it is to tell the story of farming in a modern world. Keeping the conversation open between retailers and farmers was seen as a critical element of success.

A panel on competition for land use talked about coal seam gas, the importance of information and open dialogue and the need for access arrangements between landholders and resource companies that are mutually beneficial.

On infrastructure, we heard about the need to think more creatively about how we attract capital into agriculture. Understanding what assets we have and what our future freight requirements will be can help ensure our assets are investment ready. Keeping an open mind on foreign investment was seen as critical to securing capital.

A session on youth in agriculture highlighted the importance of succession planning to young farmers, both in terms of engaging with the process and being able to fund it. Farm business models are changing and young farmers have a different way of doing things. Embracing these changes ensures we take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.

Overall, it was an inspiring and successful day. Tomorrow’s program promises to be just as insightful. The two broad themes of the day will be agriculture in a consumer’s world and how industry and government policies can align to improve the competitiveness of Australian agriculture.

McDonalds Australia CEO Andrew Gregory will start the day on connecting consumers to the farm, a theme that will be continued later in the day with an in-depth look at Brand Australia.

Key political players will take the stage to share their thoughts on the future role for government in agriculture. Speakers include Opposition Leader Bill Shorten MP, Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon MP, Leader of the Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne, Senator Bridget McKenzie, Senator David Leyonhjelm and Mr Clive Palmer MP.

- Brent Finlay is the President of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF).

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