Agriculture resilient in face of challenges; poised for growth in 2021

Drought-breaking rains have almost single-handedly held the value of farm output firm, according to the National
Farmers’ Federation’s 2020 Report Card, released today.

The Report Card provides a pulse
check of the NFF-led goal for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030,
looking at policy and investment progress across the five key areas identified
in the 2030 Roadmap.

Hampered by drought and bushfires
and most recently by the global pandemic, farm output has remained steady at
$61 billion during the past year.

“This is a good result given the
gravity of the hurdles faced by farmers, namely a once-in-a-generation drought and
the Black Summer bushfires.” NFF President Fiona Simson said.

“There is no doubt the widespread
rains beginning in late summer, turned many farmers’ fortunes around.”

Ms Simson said agriculture was not
at the coal face of the impacts of COVID-19, however the sector did need to mobilise
to ensure the entire paddock to plate supply chain kept functioning. Key to
this was agriculture’s classification as an essential service in the early days
of the pandemic.

Ms Simson said COVID-19 had presented
an opportunity to talk to all Australians about where their food and fibre came
from.

“Throughout 2020, the NFF’s
Telling Our Story initiative led public communications to ease concerns about food
shortages and to highlight the role of agriculture in the nation’s economy
recovery.

“Collectively these communications
reached more than 20 million Australians and furthered the Roadmap goal for
agriculture to be Australia’s most trusted industry by 2030.

Other highlights were a reduction
in agriculture-related tertiary course fees and an increase in enrolments; funding
to reinvigorate Farmsafe Australia; the launch of the Agriculture
Sustainability Framework; the establishment of cross-sectorial investment vehicle
Ag Innovation Australia, agriculture’s qualified commitment to a net-carbon-zero-by-2050
target and meaningful change towards gender parity in agriculture’s leadership
roles.

Ms Simson the Report Card also highlighted
headwinds, namely ongoing trade disruptions, worker shortages – exacerbated by COVID-19
travel restrictions and a lack of adequate investment in biosecurity.

“There are certainly challenges
on the horizon in the immediate to short term, which the NFF and our members
are working closely with government on to navigate a positive result for farmers.

“But, as a bumper winter crop
fills silos across the country and demand for red meat remains strong, the overall
outlook is largely positive.

“This week, ABARES revised its agricultural
production upward by 7%, predicting farm gate output to tally a record $65
billion in 2021. This is good news indeed as we work towards $100 billion by
2030,” Ms Simson said.

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