Next generation of farmers the critical piece of future puzzle: opinion

THERE’S a certain nobility in growing food and fibre for others.

But farmers don’t have time for such romantic allusions.

They’re occupied by more earthly concerns – the rhythms of a working farm, the swirling uncertainly of commodity prices, the unpredictability of Mother Nature and the fickleness of government regulators.

Food production is an important business – indeed, it’s fundamental to human survival.

Since the first crops were domesticated about 10,000 years ago, farming techniques have been in constant evolution, underpinned by emerging technology and innovation.

Australian farmers are among the most efficient on the planet.

Our farmers have remained competitive in a global food market despite Australia having low levels of subsidies compared to our major competitors and despite inhabiting the driest continent.

As one of the nation’s most important food bowls, everyone in the Riverina has a stake in ensuring farming remains competitive.

It’s often said that when farming goes well, the region goes well. We should never underestimate how tied our region’s prosperity is to the land.

Riverina futurist Malcolm Gregory has predicted Australia’s agricultural production would double in value by 2029 – a mere 12 years away.

With the global population surging and a booming middle class in Asia, it would seem we are ideally positioned to capitalise on the demand for clean, green food.

Already, Australian farmers produce 93 per cent of Australia’s domestic food supply and we produce enough food to feed 60 million people annually. We are one of only a handful of countries that is a net exporter of food, a title we should be proud of.

Much has been said of the nation’s mining boom making way for a dining boom.

But turning that catch-phrase into a cash cow is no easy task.

Our farmers must continue to drive production with roughly the same amount of arable land and without relying on more water and energy to drive up yields.

We must develop new technologies through old-fashioned Aussie on-farm ingenuity and a strong research base.

And we must ensure the next generation of farmers emerges to carry our most important tradition forward.

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