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Plan for Australian agriculture’s economic recovery

By Jamie Salter

The National Farmers’ Federation has made 35 recommendations to help the agriculture sector economically recover from COVID-19.

Key recommendations in the Get Australia Growing plan include fixing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, reinvigorating regional manufacturing and progressing domestic regulation for organic production.

To fix the basin plan, the NFF has called for governments to act on recommendations from independent reviews, develop water resource plans, improve transparency on water ownership and separate the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's regulatory and service delivery functions.

NFF president Fiona Simson said Australians had been the victims of empty promises from governments.

“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,” Ms Simson said.

“Regional Australia played a key role in staving off a recession during the Global Financial Crisis, and it can play a leading role again as we recover from COVID-19.”

Ms Simson said COVID-19 had shown the need for an improved domestic manufacturing capability for food and fibre.

“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,” she said.

“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 also called for consistent regulation of organic production, with Australian Organic chief executive officer Niki Ford saying it was a step in the right direction.

“The National Organic Standard was originally written with the intention to be enforced domestically under former Minister for Primary Industries and Energy Simon Crean back in 1992, but due to various reasons it fell by the wayside,” Ms Ford said.

“Our push this year for domestic regulation has been the first time in 27 years this issue has been properly tackled.”

The Get Australia Growing plan was launched in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday, July 14.