Farmers earmark revitalisation of agri-manufacturing among priorities to accelerate COVID-19 recovery

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) will today unveil its plan for agriculture to accelerate Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery.

NFF President, Fiona Simson is set to launch the Get Australia Growing plan in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra today.

“The opportunities the NFF presents have the capacity to provide a rapid boost to a farm sector recovering from drought, fires and flood, as well as the impacts of COVID-19,” Ms Simson said.

“The outlined priorities are not new nor are they ground-breaking, but they are achievable and will genuinely stimulate new activity and employment in our sector.

“When farmers do well Australia does well. Regional Australia played a key role in staving off a recession during the GFC, and it can play a leading role again as we recover from COVID-19.”

Get Australia Growing calls for an end to the strategy ‘vacuum’ for the future of regional Australia and a renaissance for regional food and fibre manufacturing.

“COVID-19 restrictions have caused many businesses to think flexibly about how and where they operate. This shift in thinking from Australian businesses creates enormous opportunities for ‘regionalisation’ of the Australian economy,” Ms Simson said.

“It’s an opportunity we must not squander. For too long regional Australians have been the victims of empty promises and a lack of commitment from governments.

“Currently, fragmented sources of public and private investment have no coordinating strategy at the regional level.”

Ms Simson said the Commonwealth’s Regional Deals program has the potential to provide this coordination, but it must be more ambitious and collaborative.

“When done right, Regional Deals should be the overarching framework to align – across local government and state borders – transport, manufacturing, telecommunications, energy generation, education, labour, health, cultural, indigenous and social amenities.

“We set a challenge for the Government: get the design and delivery of Regional Deals right, and back it up with a multi-billion dollar investment in the fast-tracked delivery of 20 new Deals.”

Ms Simson said COVID-19 had provided a salient reminder of the need for a revitalised domestic manufacturing capability.

“For a long time now, economic realities have forced a decline in local processing of food and fibre, as well as production of critical farm inputs.

“New technologies such as smarter approaches to energy and automation have the potential to reverse this trend, but we need to look at how governments can incentivise the private sector to make these investments.

“A properly resourced plan to improve the competitive environment for local manufacturers – particularly in regional Australia – must form part of our COVID recovery.”

The NFF’s Get Australia Growing document makes 35 recommendations to fuel growth, including calls to:

– fast-track 20 new Regional Deals;

– reinvigorate regional manufacturing;

– create a $1 billion Biodiversity Stewardship Fund;

– slash red and green tape;

– fix the Murray Darling Basin Plan;

– get our regions digitally connected; and,

– help us get more people into jobs in agriculture.

“Australia is the envy of the world in how it is managing the COVID-19 health crisis, and we’re well placed to lead the world in the economic recovery also.

“The obvious place for that recovery to start is in the bush,” Ms Simson said.

Those unable to attend the Press Club in person can watch a replay of the address at 12:30pm (AEST) on Wednesday, 15 July on ABC 1.

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