Rural media personality honored as minister delivers speech on National Agriculture Day
BIOSECURITY challenges, trade barriers and the battle to rebuild the agricultural workforce were all on the menu when federal Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Murray Watt spoke to a Queensland Rural Press Club luncheon to celebrate National Agriculture Day.
The same event also saw the distinguished rural media career of former ABC Landline and National Rural Reporter Peter Lewis recognized as an Honorary Life Member of the Rural Press Club of Queensland.
The Minister paid tribute to the important role the media plays in rural and regional Queensland, and its impact on public policy and rural communities, and praised Mr Lewis for his contribution to the agricultural sector.
“Whether it’s Queensland Country Life, Beef Central, NQ Register, Longreach Leader, ABC Rural Report, Queensland Country Hour, for which I interviewed Arlie this morning, or even the Betoota Advocate, the reach and impact of your reporting on our way of life is immense.
“I’m constantly surprised by how many people text me and say, ‘Oh Murray, I just heard you on Country Hour’, or ‘I saw what you said on Beef Central.
“Your impact on public policy and our rural communities should be celebrated and I am happy to do so here today.
“May I also pay tribute to Pete Lewis, his work with the ABC, particularly in Rural News, has been legendary and his work in the rural media space over the past few years has promoted and profiled our industry to the community at large.
“So congratulations on your lifetime membership.”
Opening his speech on National Agriculture Day, Senator Watt noted that the agricultural sector is having “a good time” with three consecutive years of above-average rainfall as well as high and growing commodities for almost all major agricultural products.
But at the same time, the agricultural sector faces challenges with higher prices for fertilizers and other inputs, rising interest rates and a critical need for good infrastructure.
Some of the issues he focused on during his address include:
BIOSECURITY: The Albanian government’s recent budget included an increased investment of $134.1 million to strengthen Australia’s biosecurity system against the immediate threat of disease.
On Friday, Minister Watt also announced two grants to Meat & Livestock Australia ($550,000) and LiveCorp ($1.2 million) to support Indonesia’s biosecurity response to foot-and-mouth disease and lumpy skin disease. .
The projects will include an in-country risk assessment and mitigation plan, development of feedlot manuals and delivery of biosecurity and emergency response training in Indonesia, and will assist feedlots. fattening to bear the cost of vaccinations in the buffer zones.
TRACEABILITY: The other key element of the biosecurity program was “significant new investment in livestock traceability”, with $46.7 million invested to support the continued improvement of livestock traceability systems.
“While there have been great improvements in traceability in some livestock industries, sorting out traceability for sheep and goats has been ‘a holy grail that has eluded governments for years,'” said said Minister Watt.
“But I am pleased that a new cooperative approach between federal, state and territory governments has seen real progress.
“We are currently working with industry for the mandatory implementation of national individual electronic tagging for sheep and goats in every jurisdiction by January 1, 2025.
“We are serious about delivering on this commitment.”
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: The federal budget provided up to $1 billion over the next five years in a Disaster Ready Fund to lessen the impact of disasters by building new flood levees, cyclone shelters, evacuation centers for bushfires and dykes, all over the country.
“We need to reduce risk, not just react.”
CHINA: Mr Watt described Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping – the first such meeting between the two countries’ leaders since 2016 as a positive step for Australia’s agricultural sector.
He said the Prime Minister had made it clear that it was not in Australia’s interest not to engage with its biggest trading partner.
“We have been consistent in saying that we want these trade blockages lifted.
“It’s in Australia’s and China’s interest.
“We would prefer to resolve these trade deadlocks through a sensible and mature discussion.”
“There is a long way to go, and we have made it clear that we will always uphold Australia’s values and our national interest, but this is a good first step.”
COP 27: He also drew attention to Australia’s participation in the COP 27 discussions in Egypt in recent weeks, led by the National Farmers Federation and Australia’s Minister for Climate Change and Energy. Chris Bowen.
“I have said before that the Australian agriculture industry is waiting for a government that will join the industry’s efforts to tackle climate change.
“And why wouldn’t they, considering the ABARES research that shows climate change is costing every farm, on average, $30,000 a year.
“Farmers, processors and industry have long given up on the climate wars and we finally have a government ready to help.”
The Albanian government recently committed Australia to join more than 120 other countries in signing the Global Methane Pledge, a collective, non-binding, economy-wide ambition to reduce methane emissions.
“Unlike the approach of some other countries, agriculture was on the table when our government was considering this and the sector achieved an outcome that not only champions the work you are already doing, but invests in incentives to reduce emissions rather than imposing punitive measures such as a tax or levy”.
AG INNOVATION: Focusing on the theme of this year’s National Agriculture Day – ‘Celebrating Innovation in Agriculture’ – he cited a number of examples where Australia was innovating in order to maintain its position as a global leader. in food and fiber production.
“Be it in Murrarie, where Australian Country Choice is innovating not only to improve its value proposition, but also to make agricultural education a key part of the future of the industry.
“Another big part of the future of the industry is sustainability, which we heard about in a great keynote from Dr. Terry McCosker at QFF breakfast this morning.
“Earlier today, Minister Bowen and I announced that almost $30 million in grants had been awarded to farmers and land managers across Australia to make it easier for them to measure the amount of carbon in their soils.
The $1.1 billion announced in the budget for the next phase of the Natural Heritage Trust program included $302 million for climate-smart agriculture, to help Australian farmers meet their environmental goals, participate in new markets carbon and biodiversity, to reduce their emissions while also developing the agricultural sector.
“Not only will this benefit the environment, but it will unlock new revenue streams and new premium markets for our products as more and more international consumers seek clean, green and sustainable products.”
LABOR SHORTAGE: The minister said another issue that farmers and their representatives “constantly raise with me” is the issue of labor shortages.
He said the Tripartite Labor Task Force, which brings together government, unions and employers’ groups, and was a direct result of the Jobs and Skills Summit held earlier this year , really started to “pick up speed” to deal with the long-standing problem. challenge.
“We have already started working in the space, including strengthening the PALM program, unclogging the visa waiting list and I am happy to report that our government has placed agriculture on the priority list of the industry for our new free TAFE locations.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s a good start.”