‘Vote 1: Agriculture’ is the message the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is delivering to the nation’s federal politicians today with the launch of the NFF’s 2013 Federal Election Policy Priorities. President Jock Laurie said ensuring Australian agriculture can continue to grow is the key focus for the NFF leading into this year’s election – and should be a high priority for all sides of Parliament. “Through the leadership of the NFF, the agriculture industry has delivered a Blueprint for the future. What we need now are clear, sensible government policies and initiatives to ensure our industry can reach its potential and in doing so continue to feed and clothe Australians and millions of others around the world. We call on all Parliamentarians to avoid the short-term political agenda and deliver on the longer term needs of the agriculture sector,” Mr Laurie said. “The next term of government will take this country to 2016 – a crucial period in determining how Australia will overcome the challenges facing the sector now, while also setting us up to capitalise on future opportunities. “The agricultural sector has five key priorities leading into this election – five key areas that we are seeking commitments from all parties and parliamentarians to achieve. This is not a wish list; these are five critical areas in which action must happen to ensure future success,” Mr Laurie said. The five NFF policy priorities are: * Growing Australian Agriculture: reprioritising agriculture in the national agenda. Key actions required: a commitment to implement Blueprint priorities and to increase agriculture’s share of the federal budget. * Investing in RD&E: driving innovation and productivity through increased investment in agriculture RD&E. Key action required: increasing total Government expenditure on R&D by one percent (of total government expenditure on R&D) by 2015. * Increasing competitiveness and profitability: ensuring we are a globally competitive and our farmers remain profitable. Key actions required: reduction of red tape through harmonisation of state/federal regulations; ensuring fair competition through delivering the balance of market power; and driving investment in infrastructure needed by our farmers. * Building a stronger workforce: encouraging greater uptake of agricultural careers and delivering improved labour solutions. Key actions required: embedding agriculture into the national curriculum and improving flexibility to allow individual flexibility agreements to be completed pre-employment. * Balancing agriculture and the environment: ensuring our natural resources can continue to be managed while also increasing agricultural production. Key actions required: ensuring infrastructure and other efficiency measures are in place prior to any water purchases in the Murray-Darling Basin; and helping farmers to improve preparedness and response to extreme climactic events including an overhaul of drought support measures. “We will be evaluating the policies of the parties on these issues through a scorecard in the lead up to the election, so that farmers can make an informed decision about their preferred Government,” Mr Laurie said. The NFF’s 2013 Federal Election Policy Priorities can be found http://www.nff.org.au/publications.html[here].