Historic Ag Visa adds to bumper year of achievements

PRECEDE

Getting the Ag Visa over the line has set up the ag industry to continue to lead Australia’s economic recovery, writes David Littleproud.

The Covid-19 pandemic has produced challenges that we have not seen before. Despite setbacks at both the national and international level, our agricultural industries have grown in strength.

The fact that they have been able to respond to such a challenge is a credit to them. We know it is never easy to be in agriculture and that is without the shadow of a global pandemic. Parts of the country remain affected by drought and our communities continue to be tested by its lingering effects. This is what makes the story of agriculture even more of a remarkable tale of resilience and recovery from our Aussie farmers.

It is a great time to be the federal Agriculture Minister and share this news.

In 2021-2022, Australia is set to smash production value records. We have forecast production to be valued at $73 billion, which is even more extraordinary given back in 2011-12 it sat at $47.8 billion. We are looking at a 2021-22 winter crop harvest of 54.8 million tonnes (32 per cent above the 10-year average) and exports are projected to be a record $54.7 billion (up 12 per cent from previous year). Livestock production is also expected to be worth $33.5 billion, an increase of eight per cent.

As we build towards the future our focus and our support for Australian ag is set firmly on innovation. Our approach is to set up the tools industry needs and to get out of their way to enable producers to grow.

Our eight Drought Resilience and Innovation Hubs have been asked and funded to expand their remit towards what they can do to help communities and farmers to grow and make a profit. We have committed $147 million alone to agricultural innovation since July 2020 and established four long-term priorities to develop Australia’s world-class agricultural innovation system by 2030. These priorities are export, climate resilience, biosecurity and digital agriculture.

It is a particular achievement this year that is set to have both immediate and long-term benefits for our communities-the establishment of the Australian Agricultural Visa.

The Ag Visa runs for three years meaning farmers will get a return on the investment they make in these workers but it will also for the first time provide a pathway to permanent residency.

We have designed the visa to have portability so that workers can work between farms allowing flexibility to workers and farmers. It is also broad in the sense that it will consider unskilled, skilled and semi-skilled work and will apply for the meat processing, fisheries and forestry industry as well.

In the Ag Visa, we have created history and regional Australia is now a step closer to welcoming the next generation of migrants to secure its future. This is not just a good thing for regional Australia but all Australia.