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Food Production

Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Producing good food from good production practices is an issue that agriculture needs to keep considering. Rising consumer awareness of the origins of their food has resulted in the growth of the organic industry as people desire to have minimal synthetic inputs into the food chain. The organic industry base is experiencing rapid growth with retail sales passing the $1 billion dollar mark last year and sales keep trending up for organic meat, poultry, dairy, horticulture and wine. In NSW almost 1 million hectares of land is now certified organic. Organic farming is fast moving on from being a niche industry. Demand for organic products is higher than supply and we now import huge volumes of organic products to Australia – so there is an opportunity for the NSW industry to capitalise on import replacement opportunity. The imperatives are to ensure the efficiency of organic production is suited to Australia’s environment and trade requirements, and organic farming does not unnecessarily impact on existing farming practises. All farmers need to have a choice in what production system they pursue and employ. NSW DPI supports the development of the organic sector through investments in staff and resources – including the maintenance of organic project sites at its Bathurst and Yanco research sites. But this is not at the expense of the department’s investment in conventional or modern agriculture practices which will continue to supply the vast majority of our agricultural products. A strategic approach to securing food production requires a good land use policy. Farmers and our regions are at the heart of the NSW Liberals and Nationals Strategic Regional Land Use Policy framework. Our land use policy, amongst broader measures, sees greater caution in the granting of new minerals exploration licences and explicit agriculture impact assessments. The Strategic Regional Land Use Policy is about striking the right balance between competing land uses in our regions, to ensure farming flourishes and food security is strong. The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government is determined to see agriculture perform strongly and farmers seize the many opportunities in regional NSW, with the support of sensible Government policy. We’re committed to taking a triple bottom line approach to development, which will recognise strategic agricultural land as a finite resource that must be preserved and utilised into the future. The policy is also about providing security for our farming land while also providing certainty for other land users like the minerals sector. Mineral Resources Minister Chris Hartcher recently announced tough new rules for coal and coal seam gas exploration and mining which will see a ban on the use of toxic chemicals, greater public consultation, stronger environmental requirements and an extension of the moratorium on ‘fraccing’ until the end of the year. A 60-day moratorium period, which ended in late July, allowed for the development of new provisions which will apply to all new coal and coal seam gas licence applications following consultation with stakeholders. We will require all new applications for mining or petroleum projects which have the potential to affect agricultural resources or industries, to submit an Agriculture Impact Statement. Although there is increasing corporate investment in agriculture in NSW, the major investor in agricultural enterprises and land in this state continues to be individuals and families. In fact, Australian Farm Institute figures show that more than 73% of rural land in Australia remains in the hands of individual owners.


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