The NAB’s February Agribusiness View contains an interesting article written by Simon Talbot, Chief Executive Office of the National Farmers’ Federation, noting that in 2014/15, farm gate income
increased by 8 per cent to $57 billion, and this is expected to rise to about $105 billion by 2030.
This prompted him to comment: “We need to establish the milestones that will enable agriculture
to double in size over the next 15 years.” He noted, however, that one of the biggest threats to
future growth is the lack of human capital.
“If we don’t attract the best people we’re going to struggle to realise our potential and, to do that,
we must make a shift from a drought mentality. Of course there are people who suffer terribly as a
result of drought and our hearts go out to them. The reality is that the vast majority of professional
farmers are engaged in highly productive, innovative agriculture and making good returns.
“People look at New Zealand and think how lucky they are to have such a benign climate, but one
thing the White Paper didn’t mention is that regarding prime agricultural land, Australia has the
equivalent of three New Zealands. We need to rebrand the industry to reflect that.”
Talbot believes these highly-productive areas should be given priority.“People have concerns about backing winners, but it’s not about supporting one area or another,it’s about thinking of ourselves as an agricultural nation and focusing on the most productive land first.
“At the moment, we’re treating agriculture as if the needs are the same across the country and
they’re clearly not. We’re very fortunate that Australia covers every climatic zone so we can grow
every kind of produce, but the different regions need to be managed in different ways.”
Talbot would like to see a deeper national conversation about Australian agriculture.
“For a long time we’ve been considered the poor cousin of other economic sectors, but that’s no
longer the case. Agriculture has the greatest uplift regarding generating wealth for the country and
I quite openly say we have some of the most productive farmers in the world.
“Now we need to listen to what the next generation of farmers wants and be ready to provide the
education and support they need.”