Food production report a fascinating read
From the October 2010 edition of Agriculture Today.
In 2008 the Australian Government established an inquiry into food production in Australia to look at how to produce food that is affordable for consumers, viable for farmers to produce and environmentally sustainable.
The Senate Select Committee produced a report in late August 2010, just before the Federal election, and has recommended that the committee be re-established to examine food production issues in more depth, particularly any proposed emissions trading scheme and its implications for food production in Australia.
Two members of the committee also put in dissenting comments to the report, saying it fell well short of the standard that should have been produced given the importance of the topic.
The report makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the issues facing food production in Australia today.
It covers land use, managed investment schemes, agricultural research, and supply chain issues such as farm input costs, water supply, transport infrastructure, food waste and food retailing.
Many of the 98 submissions to the inquiry were pessimistic about Australia’s current agricultural system, calling for our food systems to be re-designed to meet the needs of producers, consumers and the environment.
On the land use front, food growing now faces competition for land from housing development, hobby farms, forestry, biofuels and mining, making the price of agricultural land so high in some areas that it is not economic to grow food. The cost of land also prohibits younger farmers buying into agriculture.
“Australian governments need to give serious consideration to mechanisms for protecting our most fertile agricultural land from alternative uses in the interests of our long term productive capacity and food security,” the report says.
Managed investment schemes were examined in detail in light of the recent collapse of many timber plantation schemes and the Senate committee believes it is time to consider the tax advantages applied to MIS because the schemes compete for valuable land and water resources and distort investment decisions to the detriment of local farmers.
The committee found widespread concern about the low levels of government funding for agricultural research and development which is putting a brake on technological innovation just when agriculture is facing great change.
“Innovation is in fact a critical element required to maintain productivity in climatic conditions that Australian farmers have not experienced for one hundred years,” the report says.
The committee found that the supply constraints facing Australian food supply chains need to be considered as part of a broad strategic food plan for Australia.
“The global community faces an enormous challenge to feed itself by the middle of this century as the demand for food increases significantly, perhaps doubling, while our capacity to produce food is constrained by water scarcity, declining arable land, declining nutrient inputs, declining agricultural research and development and deteriorating climatic conditions in key food growing regions of the world.
“If the challenge is not met, the consequences for global peace and security could be grave and Australia will not be immune.”
You can read the full report at http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/agric_ctte/food_production/index.htm