Local, Independant and Effective

Adj Debate - Agriculture in Indi, what's needed to reach our potential

Posted August 19, 2015


CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (21:10):  Tonight I am pleased to speak about some of my favourite topics—food, farming, agriculture, education and research, and the end game: strong, sustainable, prosperous rural communities alive with opportunities for everyone. I will outline a case for an electorate-wide approach to agricultural development led by research, innovation, extension and education. The way to do this is via an inquiry into innovation being undertaken by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry, announced last week. I call on farm families, businesses and agri-organisations to make their submissions. The opportunities are great, the time is right, the people are ready and the need is huge.

In Indi we grow grass, pasture—beautiful rain-fed, nutritious green grass. We grow animals, fibre, fruit, vegies, nuts and honey, and we produce milk. And we do it with some of the best practices in the country. Our agricultural research and education, our food manufacturing industries and our agricultural services industries are world-class. And I believe we have not yet reached our potential. The best is yet to come!

I will give a few statistics to set the scene. Based on boundaries for the Hume region, which covers most of Indi, seven per cent of the workforce work in agriculture, forestry or fisheries. There are approximately 4,671 farms. In 2012-13 the gross value of agricultural production was $654 million, approximately six per cent of Victoria's production. The main activities in Indi are cattle and calves, milk, sheep and lambs, wool, and fruit and nuts. And there is enormous potential to grow these industries.

Take the dairy industry as an example. The North East Dairy Regional Growth Plan and Workforce Development Strategy outlines a bold vision to increase the production of milk from sustainable dairy farms in the alpine valleys from 220 megalitres to 400 megalitres by 2025. This will be achieved by lifting the mean farm performance for farms to the current level of the top 25 per cent of farms as measured by lifting overall milking cow numbers, lifting stocking rates, lifting per cow production, targeting home-grown fodder, maintaining cash costs at less than 70 per cent of income, targeting a greater than seven per cent return on assets, increasing the amount of high-quality land in dairy, and improving working arrangements on farms so that wealth creation and lifestyle expectations can be improved across the region.

The plan is that the industry in 2025 will be generating $160 million of farm-gate returns to the 200-plus dairy farms and supporting approximately 550 to 600 full-time jobs on-farm. With the dairy industry leading the way, the Indi agricultural growth strategy has begun. But we need more—more education, more innovation, more infrastructure—to enable this dairy model to be duplicated in other industries right across the electorate.

In June in Wangaratta, an agrifoods forum was sponsored by Charles Sturt University and AgriFood Skills Australia to better understand the current and emerging skill needs. There were three key findings: the importance of selling the positive story around agriculture and food; the need for education and training providers to incorporate into their courses new skill sets, agility and information about career paths, to provide informal as well as formal education opportunities, and to place emphasis on partnerships; and the need to work on a regional growth cluster/cooperative model.

There are so many people in Indi who are ready, willing and able to help—people like Andrew Farrington, Loretta Carroll, Linton Vogel, Tony Jarvis, Philip Szepe, Sharon Roberts, Jan Beer, Don Lawson, Paul Tobin, Stuart and Sarah Crosthwaite, Mark Ritchie, Mark Foletta and Lindsay Rapsey.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry has set up an inquiry to examine technological advancements in agriculture; improvements in efficiency due to new technology; emerging technology in areas such as telecommunications, remote monitoring and drones, plant genomics, and agricultural chemicals; and the barriers to adoption. Now is the opportunity to make submissions to this inquiry, before the closing date of 25 September. To the people of Indi, to the people of regional Victoria and Australia: share your vision of what needs to be done to help our communities reach their agricultural potential. Put in a submission. 

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