Media Release

Policy settings vital to agriculture sector’s outlook

4 March 2014

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce today said that the right policy settings for Australian agriculture were essential to ensure the ongoing success of the sector, including effective recovery for farmers hit by drought in the past two years.
Speaking at the 44th annual ABARES Outlook conference, Minister Joyce said good policy and good government had a role to play in securing a successful future for agriculture but even the best managed and best run rural businesses were impacted by factors outside their control.
“The recent drought package – which was designed to provide farming families who have no income due to the drought with some dignity sustenance; and to help ease some of the pressures from the cost of loans, and which gained bipartisan support – was pilloried by some for propping up unviable farmers,” Minister Joyce said.
“I do not want to be the minister to allow natural disasters like droughts and floods, with all their associated human misery and despair, to be the cruel instruments of rationalising the farm sector.
“When the drought breaks, the contribution that farmers make to the nation always revives.”
Minister Joyce said government and industry investment in research and development was critical to underpinning the profitability and sustainability of the agriculture sector.
“For each dollar invested in rural R&D there is an estimated return to Australian agriculture and the Australian economy of $11.
“So we’re investing $100 million in additional funding for Rural Research and Development Corporations.”
Minister Joyce said the other useful thing a government could do was to cut red and green tape and improve market access for Australian producers.
“It is commonly estimated that global food demand is set to rise 75% by 2050.
“It is also true that agricultural productivity across our regional partners, neighbours and competitors has the capacity for substantial growth to fill that demand.
“One key to international markets for Australia will be based on our ability to differentiate our products as the best in the world.
“Other keys will be based on building and improving our national infrastructure – this means roads, rail, air and telecommunications.
“This government is investing quickly – particularly in transport infrastructure such as the inland rail project and upgrades to our national highways – to make current opportunities a reality.
“We are setting out to rebuild a policy and regulatory environment that will sustain growth and improve our ability to compete on the international stage over many years.
“There will be times when any Australian farming business needs some support to navigate an unforgiving landscape that is beyond our control – no matter how well we plan or how strong our business.
“In many cases our farmers’ commitment to agriculture isn’t measured in years, but generations.
“And we need to ensure that their business is sustainable at the farm gate.
“That means policies need to be practical and effective.”
Building on our strengths in agriculture is part of the Australian Government’s plan to build a diverse 5-Pillar economy to generate jobs and deliver a stronger, more prosperous economy.