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Ag needs to be on political agenda

FARM groups are calling on federal election candidates to put agriculture high on their policy agendas.

The Victorian Farmers Federation has also hit out at both sides of politics over their lack of major funding commitments, particularly for research, to agriculture.

The VFF wants recruiting and training the next generation of food and fibre producers to be a priority for parties ahead of the September 14 federal election.

In an unprecedented move Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday announced the election date, more than 200 days in advance.

VFF president Peter Tuohey said agriculture, mining and other primary industries were keeping the county afloat

“But both sides of politics need to deliver policies that help us build on the strength of these sectors,” he said.

The VFF want federal politicians to put more emphasis on agriculture in the national curriculum, lift the number of graduates with skills relevant to agriculture and food processing, as well as rebuilding research funding for the sector.

Last month the VFF highlighted the current and past Federal Government’s failure to invest in agricultural research, which has stagnated at around $250 million a year since 2003-04.

In comparison over the same period health research has grown from $365m to $950m a year and Australian Research Council funding climbed from $399m to $879m.

“We keep hearing both sides of politics declaring how agriculture is vital to Australia’s future,” Mr Tuohey said.

“But we don’t see any major funding commitments to agriculture from either side of politics.

“The Government and Coalition must do all they can to support agriculture, which produces $46 billion of produce, directly employs 307,000 people and more than 1.6 million along the food and fibre supply chain.”

Meanwhile, the National Farmers Federation wants Australian agriculture to be considered as a key national priority.

NFF president Jock Laurie today called on all the Government to secure the future sustainability of the agricultural sector by funding sensible long-term policies.

“In her address to the NFF’s 2012 National Congress, the Prime Minister called Australia an agricultural powerhouse and said that the future success of the industry will require a joint partnership between farm businesses, communities and the Government,” Mr Laurie said.

“As the Prime Minister has herself said, agriculture has been the sector with the largest productivity growth since 2007-08, while the Opposition Leader has said that the growth in agriculture was the reason Australia avoided a recession during the global financial crisis.

“To ensure the continued success of agriculture in Australia, now is the time to get the future policy settings right.

“Which is why we are calling for a reprioritisation of Australian agriculture in the national agenda.

“We want to see agriculture elevated to the same importance as education and health, and so too does the Australian public.”

The NFF’s Federal Budget submission is available via the NFF website: www.nff.org.au

The NFF’ Blueprint for Australian Agriculture will be launched at the National Press Club in Canberra on February 14.

Source: Kate Dowler, The Weekly Times, http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2013/01/31/558463_politics-news.html