Tomorrow’s farmers must be agile say experts

Australia’s agricultural future is bright despite increasing natural disasters, a panel of experts has told the state’s farmers.

The inaugural NSW Farmers Securing the Future of Farming Forum was held in Sydney on Monday night, and heard adaptability would be key to unlocking future growth for food and fibre production.

Former NSW Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane said climate extremes – not necessarily climate change – were the big challenge for primary producers, but she said farmers were used to dealing with drought, fire and flood. Regional Investment Corporation Acting CEO Paul Dower said growth in the sector had so far been driven by rising commodity prices, not rising productivity.

NSW Farmers Head of Policy and Advocacy Annabel Johnson said it was critical to look for innovative ways to grow the sector into the future, as farmers grew the food and fibre that fed and clothed us all.

“It was so great to hear these perspectives last night as they turned their attention to securing the future of farming,” Ms Johnson said.

“Australia is clearly a leader in adopting new technology and finding ways to do more with less, and I think we need to push the envelope in really boosting our productivity.

“Not only will that help us combat inflationary pressure in the economy, it will also help us grow a stronger, more sustainable farming sector into the future.”

According to Professor O’Kane, Australia had more self-driving vehicles than any other nation, while Bayer’s Chris Staff said advances in precision agriculture technology meant targeted spraying could reduce the amount of chemicals used in production.

However, the threats of natural disasters and biosecurity incursions remained a real concern for farmers.

“Andrew Whitelaw from Thomas Elder Markets gave a powerful firsthand account of living through the UK’s foot and mouth outbreak in 2001,” Ms Johnson said.

“It’s critical we do not let that happen here, and I think there’s a real desire to see more direct action on FMD.

“All of the good work we do in growing the future of farming will be for naught if we let pests and diseases destroy whole swathes of agriculture.”

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