The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has today welcomed the Labor Government’s announcement of a number of initiatives in recent days which indicate they have finally recognised the importance of rural Australia. The announcements, including the ‘Planting the Seeds for Australia’s Farming Future’ plan, will see 20 Trade Training Centres, located in regional and rural Australia, dedicated to offering vocational and training opportunities for the ag sector; the development of an online resource for job seekers to specifically seek opportunities in agriculture and the food industry; as well as $6.5 million to be invested in an Aussie Food Jobs campaign, consisting of 20 Agriculture and Food Job Expos to be held in capital cities and regional centres around Australia, with a marketing strategy to be developed in partnership with the NFF. “We welcome this acknowledgment from the Government of the skills shortage in agriculture,” NFF CEO, Mr Matt Linnegar said. “However, while the policy provides some strong avenues for attracting new workers into the industry, it is also important to include measures that retain and up-skill existing employees. “It is also disappointing to see no mention of the Primary Industries Education Foundation (PIEF) or Rural Skills Australia (RSA) in this announcement. Both of these organisations do incredibly important work in this area, and thus far, both major parties are yet to clarify whether ongoing funding will be allocated for critical programs such as RSA’s Education Training Advisors and Australian Apprenticeship Advisors,” Mr Linnegar said. “We note that the Government has announced an additional $5.4 million to the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden National Program, which teaches school kids how to grow, harvest and prepare food, and which already receives significant Federal Government funding. Whilst we acknowledge the importance of this program, it is equally, if not more important that children learn about where their food and fibre comes from as part of the national curriculum. The NFF would like to see equal funding allocated to PIEF, whose work program is centred on this important task. “This week, the Labor Government has announced numerous other policies that address some of the key issues facing farmers, such as profitability and competitiveness. The NFF has welcomed the announcement of the $10 million program to help drive productivity and competitiveness of vegetable farmers who supply the Simplot processing plant in Tasmania; a further commitment of $25 million to help SPC Ardmona continue to upgrade their processing plant in Shepparton; a $14.75 million boost to the Southern Highlands Irrigation Scheme; and the establishment of a Centre for Rural and Regional Futures as part of the Government’s Innovation Guarantee. “While we welcome these policies, it is disappointing to see them rolled out less than a week out from the election, giving farmers very little time to gain an understanding of Labor’s vision for agriculture and making it hard to make a truly informed decision at the polling booths,’ Mr Linnegar said. The NFF will be releasing an updated Election Scorecard ahead of Saturday’s election, to provide farmers with a clear picture of which major party is most committed to the key priorities for agriculture, as identified by the NFF. The current scorecard can be viewed http://www.nff.org.au/read/3893/vote-agriculture.html[here]. Ends.