Article by: Hari Yellina
As primary farmers, we understand the necessity of making hay while the sun shines, given the inherent risks of the agriculture industry and the environment. While there are still some big limits in terms of labour and farm input supply and cost, there are a lot of factors that are lining up for agriculture that will be important in this federal election. Firstly, if COVID-19 has a silver lining, it is that the general public, legislators, and policymakers are becoming more conscious of the importance of our regions.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, regional Australia’s population increased by 70,900 individuals between 2020 and 2021, compared to a loss of 26,000 in the capital cities. This is the first time since 1981 that regional Australia’s population increased more than the capital cities. Second, not only did agriculture help the economy weather the worst of the pandemic, but our terms of trade have improved dramatically, prompting ABARES to announce a record forecast of agricultural output for the current fiscal year of over $81 billion, surpassing the previous year’s record by an enormous $12 billion. This all happens on the eve of a federal election, which will be held on Saturday, May 21.
Politicians, like the rest of the citizens, prefer rooting for a victor. As a result, this election campaign is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for agriculture to reap the benefits of strategic commitments from all parties that will position us for long-term prosperity. Both main parties are sniffing the air and have already proposed regionally focused programmes that might become their trademark efforts. The LNP’s Regional Acceleration Program, unveiled in the budget, will invest $2 billion in priority areas such as regional education infrastructure, supply chain resilience, and manufacturing.
As part of their larger $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, the ALP has set aside a $500 million pool exclusively for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and fibre to stimulate investment in value-adding for both domestic and export markets. Aussie citizens urge both political parties to give additional information on these and other farm measures as quickly as possible, and they encourage regional voters to examine the details. There will be more to say about these projects at Growcom, judging them on how well they promote regional value-adding opportunities and new value streams for fresh produce, as well as whether they improve supply chain resilience.