More than a few of us will be glad to see the back of 2020. COVID’s impact in terms of loss of life, business closures, lockdowns, social isolation, and border closures cannot be denied.
For agriculture it was largely business as usual, except that the focus on food security and supply was at an all-time high.
AgForce helped achieve many wins for agriculture when it came to COVID: having agriculture declared an essential service; working with government to secure the Agricultural Class Exemption; successfully advocating to digitise the exemption pass; removing doubt and uncertainty around movement of agricultural workers across the Queensland border.
Our wins weren’t confined to COVID though, with drought continuing into its ninth year for many we didn’t take our eyes off this devastating issue either, successfully delaying the impact of State Government Drought Reform, identifying that drought affected farmers could access JobKeeper, and securing re-funding of the Emergency Water Infrastructure Scheme.
We also had a significant win on live exports, accomplishing through advocacy with other State Farming Organisations a reduction in additional costs of approximately $30 million within the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock. Our efforts have also seen further state funding for predator fencing.
But with time ending on 2020 in a matter of hours, now seems like the perfect time to look to what our wish list for 2021 might be.
Rain and plenty of it is right at the top. Not so much that it causes flooding of course, but several years of good weather seasons that allow the crops to grow and the livestock to prosper is definitely number one.
Hand in hand with that is our wish for enduring drought policies and programs that ALL Queensland producers can engage with and access with ease.
Wins within transport also feature prominently, including more funding for upgrades for country rail lines, delivering on the requested ‘inland Bruce Highway’, strategic spending on maintenance and infrastructure for key rural and regional freight routes, and a well-funded stock route management system with modern regulation.
COVID has brought home the reality of just how easily diseases and organisms can spread, so in 2021 we’d been hoping for no new biosecurity pest and weed incursions into Queensland, the successful eradication of red imported fire ants, and the eradication of red witchweed and khapra beetle, to save the grains industry.
Mobile and digital connectivity is always a hot issue for those in the bush and improvements to benefit business, safety, education, as well as recreational use, are definitely on our list.
There are many more issues of significance that I couldn’t squeeze into this column due to publication word limits, but you can check out more on our website.
However, I couldn’t finish up without mentioning the Reef. On any agricultural wish list, not only AgForce’s, is establishing a trusted, quality assurance process for Reef science and regulations affecting farmers. It’s abundantly clear the current process isn’t working.
The beauty of a list like this one is that if the items on it bear fruit, if agriculture wins, if our regions win, we all win through our continued ability to enjoy the kind of world-class food and fibre we’ve come to depend on – this year more than most.
So Happy New Year everyone. We look forward to working for ALL Queenslanders in 2021.