Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud revealed his plan to “Make agriculture sexy again” at a recent ABARES Outlook conference, including a push to make Australia the number one country in research and development globally.
Amid drought, bushfire and now coronavirus, Minister Littleproud said that agriculture should be proud of its resilience and ability to innovate and adapt.
According to Littleproud, the Government’s plans to support agriculture include improving on-farm water storage by cutting red tape for farmers looking to create dams, while noting that policy around dams is currently a responsibility of the states.
“We’re going to cut a cheque, and we’re going to start digging some holes and plumbing this nation,” he said.
“But we need the states to work with us, so we’re putting our hand up. Because if we build that infrastructure, we don’t just build national resilience, we build regional and rural Australia.”
Minister Littleproud also expressed his support for farmers as environmental stewards of the land, as well as their ability to sequester carbon, indicating that this would create a new income stream.
Under the new plan, farmers would also be financially rewarded for reaching biodiversity standards, providing a valued-added boost to farm gate revenues.
“If you produce beef, grain or sugar in this country, and you’ve reached a biodiversity standard, you should have a seal that is internationally and nationally recognised that demands a higher price.”
According to Minister Littleproud, Australia is well placed to be the first country to market produce using a biodiversity standard to improve consumer confidence.
“No one is doing this, so we can either lead the world or try to catch up.”
In addition to the dam building and biodiversity programs, the minister also wants to elevate Australia’s global ranking in terms of research and development, citing the sector as a potential “pillar of agriculture”.
“We are number 20 in the world for research and development, and science technology.”
“Now, we have the same number of researchers in the United States and the Netherlands, and they’re numbers four and six in the world.”
Increasing the world’s view of Australian research and development would provide new jobs and help to “bring our young people home.”
“Not everyone had the ability to get back on the farm, but they have an ability to have a career and lifestyle and bring them home to regional and rural Australia.”
“Agriculture has a huge future. The story of agriculture is just add water. Agriculture is sexy again.”