National Agriculture Day on Tuesday November 21 will be a fun and important national day of celebration.
A chance for all Australians from Broome to Bordertown, to Brisbane and Burnie and everywhere in between to celebrate our great farm sector.
As National Farmers’ Federation president and as a farmer, I want all Australians to feel a sense of pride in agriculture.
Not only does agriculture put food on our plates and clothes on our back, it provides a significant national economic contribution and a sense of identity for so many of us.
Today, our farmers feed about 61 million people globally.
And the demand to feed more global citizens is real. By 2050, there will be 70 per cent or 2.3 to 2.4 billion more people on earth. This means we will need 70 per cent more food than what is currently on offer.
Australian farmers are certainly stepping up to the plate to meet the world’s hunger.
In 2016-2017 the value of Australian agricultural production for the first time, exceeded $60 billion.
Last national accounts figures show agriculture as the leading contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.
Agriculture is the fastest growing of all Australia’s 19 industries. In the year past, agriculture grew by a whopping 23 per cent. Today agriculture and affiliated industries provide jobs to about 11.5 million Australians.
These good times are spurred on by the coming to fruition of free trade agreements and the growing affluence of the Asian middle class. Our Asian neighbours cannot get enough of Australia’s quality, clean, green, safe food and fibre.
Australia’s farmers are amongst the most innovative in the world – it sounds cliché but it is true.
The context in which they operate calls on them to be. Our farmers are the least subsidised on the globe – a big hurdle up to three quarters of what we produce is exported.
But without a doubt it is the natural environment that always proves to be the most challenging.
Australia truly is a land of drought and flooding rains. To be a productive and profitable farmer – you must be a sustainable one.
That is why Australian farmers are frontline environmentalists.
Agricultural businesses occupy and manage 48 per cent of Australia’s landmass - 317 million hectares – that figure always gets me.
Farmers are at the frontline of environmental management. Every day they are delivering environmental outcomes on behalf of all Australians.
And the results should be celebrated.
Australian primary industries have led the nation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – a massive 63 per cent reduction between 1996 and 2016.
And in a drying climate, Australia’s overall water consumption has decreased in 2014-2016 by 7 per cent from 2013-2015. The decrease was the largest in the ag industry.
And as much as global consumers love Australian produce – we must continue to nurture our social licence to operate.
Supply chains are a becoming more transparent – the consumer is becoming closer. Shoppers are more and more concerned about the provenance of what they are eating.
Increasingly, I’m seeing supermarket products where consumers can scan a barcode and they are taken to a profile of the farmer who produced the steak, the carrot, the eggs!
The career trajectories on offer in agriculture are also endless.
There is something in ag for almost every interest whether it be molecular research, nutrition, finance, business management, marketing or agronomy … the list goes on and one. Ag is also becoming a less male dominated-domain. I am pleased to report that 50 per cent of tertiary ag enrolments are now from females.
The increased integration of digital technology is also significant. Technology is changing the traditional role of a farmer. The advent of automated machinery and sensory technology promises to dramatically reduce the time-spent in-paddock and purports to allow larger tranches of land to farm with less manual effort.
So, on National Agriculture Day, I encourage all Aussies to celebrate our illustrious food and fibre industries. Ag Day is also an opportunity to recognise the contribution of the many, many business that support the farm sector and in turn our regional communities.
Businesses such as such as rural supplies businesses, stock and station agents, accountants and trucking companies.
Why not get the local community together at an Ag Day barbecue or kick up your heels with an Ag Day long table lunch.
If you are in Brunswick or Bondi think about where what you are eating has come from?
Are you enjoying a pulled pork bun with pork from Laverton, coleslaw made with cabbage grown in Cowra and a bread roll made from Aussie wheat?
Consider cheers’ing to Australian agriculture with a beer brewed from South Australian barley or a Pinto from Pemberton.
All Aussies should feel proud of the contribution of our ag sector. An industry that spans from the top of Western Australia to the southernmost tip of Tassie.
Mark Tuesday November 21 on the calendar.
To me, every day is Agriculture Day.
- Fiona Simson is the President of the National Farmers’ Federation and a Liverpool Plains farmer.