Ag sector in Indi eager for innovation and education to build sustainable future
Posted December 02, 2015
CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (21:10): Can I add my congratulations to the member for Groom. I am a frequent user of that road and know it well. I have family in Toowoomba and know how important that road is going to be. But tonight my topic is agriculture. I am here tonight to tell the parliament that agriculture in Indi is ready for the next big agricultural transition. We are ready for change. In my electorate, agriculture is worth over $600 million per year. It is the fifth largest employer, with around 5,000 businesses across eight local governments. Food based manufacturing employers over 2,210 people. And when we add both agriculture and manufacturing together, it is the second largest employer in the Hume region. The main industries are beef, dairy milk, prime lamb, wool, fruit nuts, wheat, vegies, oilseed, nurseries, flowers, turf, fish, and wine. There are other industries such as honey and hops, green tea, grass seeds, blue berries, mustards, alpacas, hydroponic tomatoes—and did I say wine?
How do I know that agriculture is so important? I know because people tell me. At the recent Indi community summit—and there are full details of that on my web page—agriculture was the main topic of discussion. Tonight I would like to share with you a small snapshot from the summit. We talked about 'if we could do what we wanted to do'. The agricultural group said: 'We would like to develop strong networks to build knowledge, to share ideas and to provide support. We would like to innovate. We would like to focus on agricultural educational opportunities. We would like a centre of excellence and graduate training through industry and business. And we would really like to build links to state and national strategies.' The summit group committed to developing a strategy for supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture in Indi to provide advisory support, market linkages, branding, new products, and helping business 'step up'.
There are many examples of agriculture in my electorate. The Alpine Valleys Dairy Pathways is committed to increasing the productivity of our farms by 2020 to have a gross value of $160 million. The wine industry in the regions of Rutherglen, King and Ovens valleys and Beechworth produces internationally recognised, top quality wines and, with the support from Tourism North East Victoria, it has built an amazing experiential tourist industry. Mansfield Secondary College is winning awards for its creative, supportive and hugely successful agricultural educational program. The Lawson family, a multigenerational family lead by patriarch, Don—'Hi, Don'—is exporting prime angus cattle all across Australia and into China. There is Sam Murphy's hydroponic tomatoes in Mansfield; the La Spina family in Whorouly, producing capsicum; and Rachael Armstrong and her family's innovative work with nutrisoils. Sandy Creek Nursery, located just outside of the beautiful Yackandandah, is one of Victoria's largest native plant suppliers. At Catkin, towards Yea, Valley Seeds produce over half of Australia's lawn seed supply, plus turf seeds for playing fields and forage seed for horticultural crops. Research abounds. Close to Eildon is the Victorian Fisheries. The well-named Snob's Creek Hatchery and Research Centre breeds salmonid species for fishers. This is but a taste of the riches of agriculture in Indi. Agriculture is important, but we need to grow our production. We need to grow our education, our research, our innovation, our trade, our skills, and our ability to work together. And now is exactly the right time to do it. The Prime Minister tells us that there has never been a better time to do business in Australia, and I agree with him.
I am a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry. Our current inquiry is looking at innovation in agriculture, and we have had a very positive response to our call for submissions—many from Indi. The committee is holding a public hearing in Wodonga on Thursday, 28 January, and I invite all those interested in innovation in agriculture in Indi to attend. But governments cannot do it alone. We have got to work together, and this is what the Indi community summit committed to. It committed to working together. Tonight I acknowledge their work. I thank them for their dedication and make a commitment to them—to the agriculturalists, to the farmers and to the consultants—to be an active partner in helping agriculture in Indi reach its full potential.