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TAS Country : January 5th 2012
6 Tasmanian Country Friday, January 6, 2012 Opinion We must milk '12 for all it's worth TFGA matters with Jan Davis TOO often we take ourselves for granted. That is especially so for Australian farmers. We tend to live in our own world and expect everyone else to understand all the trials and tribulations of producing potatoes, growing grain or raising cattle and sheep. It doesn't happen like that. There is too much going on in the rest of the world for people to pay too much attention to things that don't impact on them directly and immedi- ately. Therefore, you can't assume that everyone else understands your busi- ness. You certainly should not take it for granted that they are going to support your business come hell or high water. Communicating what you do is something you have to work at 24/7, to use the current vernacular. That is why we must make the most of the opportunity that this year, the Australian Year of the Farmer, pro- vides to all of us. As an industry, we have many good stories to tell --- and there is no better time to tell these than now. There have been black clouds over the world economy over the past three years, since the start of the global financial crisis, and there have been lightning strikes in Greece and Italy to follow the meltdown in the US. The Australian economy is not im- mune to what is happening. When Europe and the US sneeze, we may also catch a cold. The minerals' boom has quarantined us so far, but that can be subject to boom or bust cycles. While Australia may no longer ride on the sheep's back, I believe agriculture will al- ways be our mainstay. With our harsh climate, we do it better than anyone else. The Australian Year of the Farmer presents us with the opportunity to tell some of the many really positive stories that we see every day, but that those outside the farming sector know little about. Tasmania has 3500 farms that pro- duce milk worth $292 million, veg- etables $241 million, cattle and calves $170 million as well as a host of niche food, wine and fibre products. In 2012, the value of agricultural production at the farm gate in this state is tipped to top $2 billion. That is our contribution to a national industry that is worth almost $50 bil- lion each year to the economy, or 12 per cent of gross domestic product. Nationally, agriculture supports the jobs of 1.6 million Australians in farming and related industries. That is 17.2 per cent of the national workforce. Few people realise that more than half those jobs are in the cities, in industry sectors such as food retailing, accommodation, cafes and restaurants, and food processing. At the same time, we manage 61 per cent of the Australian landmass and we deliver significant environmental out- comes for the nation. The latest statistics show farmers reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent between 1990 and 2006. Life wasn't meant to be easy, but few people know that Australian farmers are among are the most self-sufficient in the world. On average, government support constitutes just 4 per cent of average farm income here, compared to 61 per cent in Norway, 23 per cent in the European Union, 17 per cent in Canada and 9 per cent in the US. And that 4 per cent includes things such as the diesel fuel rebate, which is not a subsidy at all, and Exceptional Circumstances assistance to farmers coping with extreme weather events. So, that Australian ethos of farmers getting on with the job, regardless of the obstacles, is as apt today as it was at the country's settlement. We are good at what we do. We have to be in the harsh Australian con- ditions. With all of that, the prospects for agriculture are very positive as we face playing our part in feeding, clothing and housing a world population that is expected to peak at nine billion by 2050. We can crow for as long as we like about how good we are, but self-praise is no recommendation and there is nothing like third-party endorsement. That's the aim of the Australian Year of the Farmer; to have all Australians recognise the important role farmers play in their everyday lives. There used to be a bumper sticker around that said something like ''Thank a farmer for your next meal''. That's the message we need to get across to everyone in this lucky country of ours. UPBEAT: Sid Sidebottom sees greener pastures on the horizon as opportunities open up for Tasmanian producers in Asian countries. Opportunities abound Federal MP Sid Sidebottom has a key message for Tasmanian producers -- innovation is vital for growth. ROGER HANSON reports Excited about future WHEN Sid Sidebottom talks about Tasmania's primary industries, his enthusiasm overflows -- so much so that if he were to bottle it he would open up a major export market with its sheer volume. The federal ALP member for Brad- don, an electorate that takes in the North West and West Coast and includes King Island, was recently appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. ''I feel honoured to be chosen to serve in a higher capacity,'' Mr Sidebottom said. ''Here in Tasmania we are the classic crucible of the primary industries.'' Mr Sidebottom, who lives at Forth, but has an office in Burnie, is in the heartland of Tasmania's primary in- dustries, and he knows them well. Dairying, which is the biggest agri- cultural industry in Tasmania, em- ploys about 2000 people across the state, with 70 per cent of those in the North West. ''Being associated with rural affairs is part of my political DNA,'' Mr Sidebottom said. He is also deputy chair of the new House of Representative's Regional Australia Committee. He will be working closely with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig. ''I will also be working closely with Simon Crean, Tony Burke and Greg Combet. ''My new role is significant in many ways for it can touch on the future of Tasmania. There are significant chal- lenges and opportunities facing agricul- ture, forestry and fisheries.'' Those challenges included exports and pressures from a higher dollar and imports. One of the challenges facing the industries was the supply chain and its integration. ''However, there are so many excit- ing opportunities ahead for the Tas- manian rural sector.'' He is excited by the career opportun- ities opening up in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. ''Primary industries have proven to be adaptable, which is a strength of Tasmanians,'' Mr Sidebottom said. ''Modernisation is increasingly opening up hi-tech careers. ''The dairy industry is a case in point with its CowsforCareers program.'' He recently led an ASEAN del- egation for food and trade to Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore. ''What came through loud and clear, is how much they like Australia and its people, and one of our greatest assets in Tasmania is food security,'' he said. ''We need to tap into their networks and become partners in equity enter- prises to capture the assets we have here.'' Mr Sidebottom sees innovation as a great strength Tasmanians have in dealing with existing trade conditions and opening up new and niche markets. Tasmanian has many untapped niche markets, he said. ''Tasmanian blueberries and goats milk are examples of massive growth potential for new and emerging prod- ucts and markets. ''However, we continually need to think outside the square and be innovative. The new Parliamentary Secretary is keen to work with the industries in his portfolio. ''I want to listen and meet with people in the industries so I can be informed to provide assistance.''
December 22nd 2011
January 13th 2012