Election, a referendum on how agriculture is valued in this country

Election, a referendum on how agriculture is valued in this country

Opinion
Tony Mahar

Tony Mahar

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NFF CEO Tony Mahar says smart policies and investment across a wide range of areas including trade and market access; energy and climate change; drought; natural resource management; tax; and business regulation are vital for the future of agriculture.

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Opinion 

In agriculture, we often talk a lot about the 'industry' of agriculture; of the farm business, of concepts such as productivity growth, terms of trade, tariffs and input costs.

These are all important but we know what farmers do and why they do it, is about much more than all that.

Our farmers are not only an economic powerhouse of our economy - contributing $60 billion plus each year to Australia's GDP and employing more than a quarter of a million Australians, they underpin everything outside our city bounds and much within them.

Agriculture is the fabric of our regional towns and cities. Farmers support other small businesses such as rural supplies, hairdressers, mechanics, pubs and bakeries.

Farming families make schools viable and health and other essential services possible.

Local weekend footy games are made up of those who shear sheep and tend crops during the week. Our much-valued community groups and charities are stitched together by rural people who have an inbuilt civic duty to give back.

Our farmers are above all responsible and resilient. They manage 50 per cent of our landscape on behalf of all Australians. A landscape that is too often cruel.

Cruel to producers such as those central Queensland farmers who lost, in some cases, their entire herd to flood after years of drought. Cruel to those grain producers in parts of NSW who are facing a third consecutive year of no crop or worse, a failed crop.

It has been during these recent hard times, of drought and flood that we've seen the special place agriculture holds in the hearts of most Australians.

That special place is the reason why Australians donated more than $10 million to NFF's drought relief appeal alone and why many, many able Australians left their own families and work commitments to help with the gut wrenching clean up task following the Queensland floods.

But for some time, but particularly this year, we find ourselves having to defend our noble sector. In fact, from some quarters, agriculture is under attack.

Literally under attack from extreme fundamentalists who think it's ok to invade family homes, steal livestock and enforce their radical views on the world. Under attack from politicians who are dangerously seeking to dictate what famers can and can't grow.

The NFF sees this election and the promises and policies championed as setting the tone for how agriculture is valued in this country going forward.

It is a referendum on the status of agriculture - in the eyes of our elected leaders.

The NFF has a bold vision for agriculture to be a $100 billion sector by 2030. Up from around $60 billion today. It's a goal supported by the Government, the Opposition and industry.

But talk is cheap. This election we must see smart policies and investment across a wide range of areas including trade and market access; energy and climate change; drought; natural resource management; tax; and business regulation. We need solutions to agriculture's workforce crisis, investment in regional communities and in telecommunications and traditional infrastructure.

The NFF has been holding the major parties to account as to where they stand on agriculture. We wrote to each party asking them to respond as to how their policies align with the issues the NFF and our members deem to be of most importance to our sector.

Their responses are included in our online Commitment Tracker at www.farmers.org.au

I urge all farmers, before they vote on Saturday, to determine what party has the best plan for agriculture's future.

In some policy areas, there are stark differences in each party's approach, and it is important to understand these differences. Agriculture's future success and our goal to be a $100 billion industry, depends on it.

- Tony Mahar is the CEO of the National Farmers' Federation

The story Election, a referendum on how agriculture is valued in this country first appeared on Farm Online.

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