Australia’s peak agricultural advocacy body, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has cautiously welcomed the Government’s announcement today on a commitment to northern Australia. The NFF has for some time recognised the challenges and opportunities in expanding the development of northern Australia, particularly in regards to agricultural production. “We know it’s not an easy or quick turnaround to develop these opportunities, but in order to take advantage of possibilities in new and expanding markets, Australian agriculture does need to look at ways to become more profitable and increase capacity for production,” NFF CEO Matt Linnegar said. “The farming community in Australia recognises the real and identified challenges in improving northern Australia, which include a range of environmental, social and economic issues. These challenges were raised in the NFF-led, industry developed Blueprint for Australian Agriculture. “Measures such as special economic zones that encourage businesses to expand, improved taxation arrangements that attract new investment and the streamlining of regulatory impacts have all been raised by the farm sector and will help respond to the challenges identified,” Mr Linnegar said. “However, we need to be clear – it is one thing to acknowledge that there are opportunities in the north of Australia, and there are. But there should be no illusions about the fact that it will require a cooperative and comprehensive approach for development in the region to work. A sporadic or fragmented approach to expanding agriculture in northern Australia is not going to benefit anyone and in fact will be detrimental to the industry,” Mr Linnegar said. While the NFF welcomes the commitment of $10 million to the Northern Territory Government to help facilitate expansion of the Ord Irrigation Scheme for crops such as sugar, the farming community recognises that this is a drop in the ocean in terms of what is required. “What is needed is significant investment to response to critical issues facing development in the north, such as infrastructure including dams, transport and processing facilities, labour availability and research and development into crops and soil types. What’s more, better coordination is needed across industry, including agriculture and mining but also with State and Territory Governments,” Mr Linnegar said. The NFF’s 2013 Election Priorities call for governments to commit to a national northern Australia development plan, including increased agricultural production through sustainable intensification of existing industries and exploring new industry opportunities; underpinned by feasibility studies for relevant infrastructure including dams, processing facilities and transport provisions. For more detail on the NFF’s Election Priorities, visit the website http://www.nff.org.au/read/3893/vote-agriculture.html[here].