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New Agriculture Minister gets on-farm as new figures show bumper year ahead

New Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt will undertake his first farm visit as Minister today, to hear first-hand from farmers and other industry representatives about the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

Minister Watt will spend the day in the Emerald region in Central Queensland, visiting cattle saleyards, a cotton farm, cotton gin and leading ag tech developer SwarmFarm Robotics.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Central Queensland - one of the country’s most productive agricultural regions - and I wanted to return there to kickstart my term as Agriculture Minister,” Minister Watt said.

The visit coincides with the release of new figures showing agricultural exports will hit a record $65 billion in value in 2022-23 as the new Albanese Government prepares to tackle labour shortages and biosecurity threats and help farmers derive more value from their produce. 

Minister Watt will also tell local farmers and industry representatives that the Albanese Government is focused on helping them overcome mounting input and supply chain challenges, while also positioning the sector to seize the massive opportunities arising from increased efforts to tackle climate change.

“I’m pleased to report that the latest agricultural commodities report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences predicts record exports worth $65 billion in 2022-23 and a second consecutive year of more than $80 billion in production,” Minister Watt said. 

“We are expecting our forestry and fishing sectors also to perform well, with the total value of the four industries forecast to be $86.2 billion, just below the record result for 2021-22.

“But rising costs and access to farm labour and imported machinery will continue to challenge many Australian farm businesses. We understand this and that’s why I’ve identified these issues as key priorities for me, as the new Minister.

“The government will strengthen the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme to help overcome labour shortages, but there is also much more we can do to attract Australian workers to regional areas and retain them. I’ll be working closely with my Cabinet colleagues to ensure that regions benefit from the new government’s increased emphasis on training up local workers.”

Tackling biosecurity threats and ensuring farmers derive more value from their renowned produce are also priorities for Minister Watt.

“I’ve been briefed by Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Mark Schipp upon his return from Indonesia, where there are worrying outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and lumpy skin disease in cattle right now,” Minister Watt said. 

“I’m working closely with experts and stakeholders to ensure that we have the right protections in place and continue to make the right biosecurity investments - at home and offshore.

“As well as protecting the industry, we want to help farmers derive more value from their produce through value adding and innovation. We want Australia to not only grow the wheat but also make the flour, biscuits and cakes and process and package meat for domestic and international markets.

“That’s why we will invest $500 million through our National Reconstruction Fund to encourage farmers to create more food products in Australia, in addition to selling raw commodities overseas.

“Australian agriculture is on track for another record-breaking year, and the new government will be doing everything we can to support it with continued innovation, value adding and increased decarbonisation efforts.”

Minister Watt will be accompanied today by National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simpson and CEO, Tony Mahar, Agforce General President Georgie Somerset and Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay.

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