Election 2013 Western Australia March 9

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iT Matters Agriculture

Nationals Agriculture Policy

Agriculture has been the backbone of regional communities in Western Australia for more than a century.
 
If farmers are doing well they spend money in local shops and machinery dealerships. That creates more jobs – attracting people to towns, keeping shops and banks and doctors surgeries open, keeping people involved in sporting clubs and community groups and keeping regional communities vibrant.
 
Over the past 12 months there have been numerous reports that highlight the huge opportunities that exist for Australian agriculture to capitalise on the economic growth of Asia and the desire of Asian countries to ensure their food security.
 
These reports suggest Australia could double, even triple, the value of our agricultural exports, taking WA’s agriculture export earnings from
 
$6 billion to $18 billion a year. Achieving this goal will require focussed research and development, expert skills and above all, significant investment. Investment in WA’s resources sector has made the State a global economic powerhouse.
 
Fifteen years ago, no one could have imagined the strength of the mining sector in WA today. If we win the balance of power, The Nationals WA will invest an additional $300 million to ensure
the agriculture sector can undergo the same transformation, creating growth and prosperity in regional communities in the process.
Over the past four years The Nationals WA have delivered almost half a billion dollars of direct investment into WA agriculture through Royalties for Regions.
 
This document outlines The Nationals WA’s plan to build on that investment and convert the potential of the Asian Century into growth in WA’s agriculture and food sector, resulting in greater returns for farmers and strong, sustainable regional communities.
 
1.RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
 
The agriculture industry is constantly evolving, so investment into research and development is essential to respond to the challenges of a changing environment and to remain internationally competitive.
This involves not only scientific research to develop new crop varieties, new technology and new farming practices, but also economic and market research to find out what our customers want, examine and predict market trends, identify market opportunities and identify ways to make farmers more profitable.
 
Already happening
As part of the national framework for agricultural research and development, WA has taken the lead responsibility for innovation in the grains sector.
 
The WA Government’s flagship contribution in this area is a $30 million commitment to establish the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC), which will be a national centre of excellence for economics, science and innovation to improve the competitive advantage of Australian grain in the international marketplace. A new headquarters for the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and an AEGIC building are currently being designed and are due for completion in 2018.
 
The Nationals WA in government have established the New Genes for New Environments facilities in Merredin and Katanning for research into GM technology and the Managed Environment Facility in Merredin for research on conventional crops.
 
The Nationals WA are also supporting innovation in research centres like the Centre for Grain Food Innovation in Bentley, the Frank Wise Institute at Kununurra and the Manjimup Horticulture Research Centre.
 
Through the successful drought pilot, we have tackled risk management and drought preparation, including farm planning and management training. Royalties for Regions has also funded 65 new weather stations to provide farmers with the best possible climate information to assist with farm planning decisions.
 
Further, the Yield Prophet and Bridging the Yield Gap initiatives have provided growers with the ability to better manage risk.
 
What’s next?
The Nationals WA understand the value of grassroots research and development and will provide grants to grower groups to conduct research, development and extension projects.
 
The Nationals WA will also fund a program to identify and facilitate access to potential new markets and new opportunities in existing markets for our products.
 
This program will seek to understand the food requirements of export markets in Asia and the Middle East and how they might be met in terms of local production, exports and long-term contracts with overseas customers.
 
Western Australia is the nation’s major grain growing state and The Nationals will continue to support our dominance in this area by injecting a further $20 million into AEGIC.
 
The Nationals WA will commit $15 million to establish a Northern Beef Industry Development Centre in Broome and $10 million towards a Sheep Industry Development Centre in Katanning.
 
These centres will foster the latest research, work to ensure the entire supply chain is effective and efficient, and build on the efforts of the respective beef and sheep industry leadership councils. Given live exports are a critical part of the WA livestock sector, the centres will work to support the development of new markets.
 
With the growth of the organics industry set to continue, The Nationals WA will establish a $5 million Organic Food Industry Research Centre in Bunbury.
 
The Nationals will invest $10 million over five years to help WA grain growers to better manage risk. This will involve expanding the weather station network, building radar stations at Merredin and Jurien, expanding the number of Yield Prophet sites and an Agtech initiative to enable growers to utilise modern technology to manage risk more effectively and make more informed decisions.
 
2. LAND AND WATER
The critical element in any agricultural endeavour is water.
 
Western Australia has abundant and under-utilised water resources in our north, while at the same time traditional food growing areas in the South West are under pressure from a drying climate.
 
There is potential to increase economic growth and employment in regional communities from irrigated food production by establishing new irrigation areas and increasing the size and water use efficiency of existing irrigation districts.
 
Irrigated agriculture also offers significant opportunities as a provider of indigenous employment, with many indigenous communities located near substantial water resources.
 
Already happening
The Nationals WA in government have delivered what previous governments couldn’t - Stage 2 of the Ord Irrigation Area in the East Kimberley. This has only been possible through investment of $311 million of Royalties for Regions funding. We are also working towards Ord Stage 3 and further expanding irrigated agriculture in the East and West Kimberley.
 
With the support of The Nationals WA in government in the planning and development phase, Rio Tinto is now operating its Hamersley Agriculture Project, which uses billions of litres of excess fresh water from a Pilbara mine site to grow hay.
 
Gogo Station in the Fitzroy Valley has diversified into irrigated agriculture and Woodie Woodie mine in the Pilbara is solving a waste water problem by using mine de-watering to grow crops. The Nationals WA have also helped build a new irrigation pipeline and allocated $25 million to the Gascoyne Food Bowl project to expand the Carnarvon Irrigation Area.
 
Citrus orchards near Moora and almond farms in the Carnamah Shire are examples of innovative water use. Growing these types of crops in traditional grain-growing areas is creating jobs and attracting people to the area.
 
Royalties for Regions has also invested $500,000 to explore the development of a recycled water supply in the Peel Region, which would create new opportunities for agricultural production in the region.
 
The Nationals WA are committed to good management and use of natural resources and supports the continued funding of the State Natural Resource Management (NRM) program.
 
What’s next?
The projects above are just some of the examples of how water is the key to agricultural expansion – with a $40 million investment from The Nationals WA, many more opportunities will be realised.
 
The $40 million statewide Water for Food initiative will continue to support the expansion of irrigated agriculture in the East Kimberley, as well as develop environmentally and culturally appropriate irrigated agriculture in the Fitzroy River catchment and La Grange area south of Broome.
 
The Nationals WA will fund projects to capitalise on mine de-watering opportunities in the Pilbara. Resources will be committed to expand the production area of the Swan Coastal Plain,
improve water efficiency and develop alternative water sources to support the expansion of horticulture in the South West.
 
We will also continue to reform pastoral land tenure, to give pastoralists better security of tenure and the opportunity to attract investment and diversify into irrigated agriculture.
 
3. GETTING PRODUCE TO MARKET
 
Western Australia’s proximity to Asia gives us an opportunity to provide fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood and dairy products directly from the regional areas where they are produced to key markets. To do this regional WA will require better transport and storage, upgrades of facilities at seaports and airports, and improved processing and packaging.
 
Providing the right transport, energy, water and communications infrastructure in regional areas will encourage more investment in regional food production and processing businesses and create employment and economic growth.
 
Already happening
 
The Nationals WA in government have made unprecedented investment of $178.8 million in upgrading rail and road infrastructure in the Wheatbelt to transport the State’s grain harvest. The leasing arrangement for the land at Ord Stage 2 includes the construction of a new sugar mill and upgrades to the Wyndham Port.
 
Commercial operators are building a northern abattoir near Broome following studies commissioned by the Department of Agriculture and Food. Royalties for Regions is funding 113 new mobile phone towers as country people and regional businesses deserve access to the same technology and level of service as the city.
 
The Nationals WA in government have also invested $27 million as part of the Regional Airports Development Scheme, which has been used by airport operators to develop infrastructure, undertake planning, maintenance and terminal upgrades at our key regional airports.
 
What’s next?
The Nationals WA will fund an audit of infrastructure across the State to identify constraints to the expansion of agriculture and the food industry, right across the supply chain.
 
Following the results of the audit, The Nationals WA will establish a $75 million Infrastructure Investment Fund to begin tackling these constraints, including creating more berth space at ports, upgrading key road and rail networks, opening up our regional airports and ensuring access to good communications infrastructure.
 
The Nationals WA will continue to advocate to keep as much grain on rail as possible, as outlined in our grain transport discussion paper.
 
4. INVESTMENT AND TRADE
 
WA has always been an exporting State. Currently about 80 per cent of our agricultural produce is shipped overseas. The small size of WA’s domestic market means the only way to grow our agricultural sector is to sell more of our products to overseas customers. WA has developed a deserved reputation for delivering top quality, fresh, healthy, safe food. We can capitalise on our reputation to build on existing markets and expand into new ones.
 
Investment and trade go hand-in-hand. A company that invests in WA agriculture is locking in its commitment to WA agriculture, instead of scouring the world’s spot markets for the cheapest prices.
 
One of WA’s biggest trade advantages is our freedom from many pests and diseases, which allows us to access markets that our competitors cannot. That also means one of the biggest threats to agricultural investment and trade is a breakdown in biosecurity. An outbreak of a serious pest or disease could have catastrophic consequences, and shut WA out of overseas markets for many years.
 
Already happening
 
In 2010, the government achieved a major breakthrough in opening up the Saudi Arabian market to WA wheat. WA is also increasing exports of fresh vegetables to supermarkets in Singapore, dairy products to Indonesia and wine to China.
 
WA has overseas trade offices in key markets like Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, China and India. WA also achieved a world first by achieving freedom from potato cyst nematode, which opened markets in Korea and Taiwan.
 
What’s next?
Under our WA: Open for Business initiative, The Nationals WA will establish a Trade Commissioner as head of an Office of Inward Investment. The Trade Commissioner will act as a first point of contact
for investors, providing advice on investment opportunities, assistance with government regulations and coordination across government agencies. Assistance will be given to local agriculture and food businesses to become investment ready and link them with potential investors.
 
The Nationals WA will also boost the Department of Agriculture and Food’s presence in WA’s overseas trade offices and co-fund an export development officer to work with Horticulture WA. In addition, aquaculture projects like Cone Bay Barramundi and potential algae farming projects need to be able to get timely approvals to meet development expansion timelines if they are going to attract investment and sell into international markets.
 
We will fund the development of a WA brand to identify and promote local produce in overseas markets to capitalise on our reputation for fresh, clean, healthy food.
 
The Nationals WA will boost the State’s biosecurity measures to bolster quarantine and respond to biosecurity threats should an outbreak occur.
 
5. SKILLS
To take advantage of the export opportunities before us, the agricultural sector will need a skilled workforce that understands both advanced technology and biology, as well as complex business and marketing arrangements.
 
Agriculture is a sophisticated, technologically-advanced industry that offers a range of exciting and rewarding careers, but the agricultural workforce has not kept pace with this change.
 
Agriculture is not attracting the people it needs, with enrolments in tertiary agricultural courses declining. With an increasingly urbanised population there is also a growing lack of knowledge and understanding about where our food and fibre comes from and how it is produced.
 
Already happening
The Nationals WA in government have endeavoured to raise the profile of agriculture in secondary schools through its AgLinkED and Open your Eyes to a Career in Agriculture programs, and build a greater recognition of WA produce through the Buy West Eat Best campaign. The Nationals WA are also supporting farmers to improve their business skills through the Plan, Prepare, Prosper workshops.
 
WA has the best system of agricultural colleges in Australia, into which the government invests $25 million annually. Royalties for Regions recently provided a $10 million boost for Muresk to transform it into a multi-use facility for tertiary students.
 
What’s next?
The Nationals WA will develop an initiative to help industry to raise the profile of agriculture in the community and promote a positive image of the sector. This will include providing more resources to teachers in primary and secondary schools, a program to increase the number of people applying for jobs in the agriculture sector and increasing the capacity of the industry to promote itself. We will also inject an additional $10 million to continue the transformation of Muresk and to assist with the development of agricultural courses.
 
We will investigate the feasibility of establishing a WA college of agriculture to cater for high school students in the Kimberley, and a tertiary facility with a focus on attracting indigenous Western Australians into agriculture. The Nationals WA will also fund a program to boost the skills of regional agriculture and food businesses, including a free business diagnostic check, industry workshops and business adviser support.

 

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