By Richard Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
As Australian farmers continue to face declining terms of trade, improved productivity is becoming increasingly important.
Productivity gains will ensure Australian grain farmers remain profitable and internationally competitive and the grains industry remains a leader in Australia"s agricultural sector.
The key to the grains industry keeping pace has been research and development.
The Australian Government believes R&D is not only fundamental to Australia"s economic prosperity, but is also the key to the long-term sustainability and profitability of our rural industries and the viability of many regional communities.
R&D has underpinned annual growth rates of between two to four per cent in many agricultural sectors for the past 20 years. The grains industry has been at the forefront of productivity improvements in agriculture.
The grains industry has a strong record of identifying and adopting innovation, as shown by technological advances initiated through the GRDC - and the Australian Government has an important role in helping the industry meet its strategic challenges through R&D.
By maintaining its matching funding policy, for example, the Government has made a firm commitment to rural Research and Development Corporations.
In 2003-04, the Government contributed about $42 million to the GRDC alone.
Co-investment by industry and the Australian Government in R&D is a key to the success of the rural RDC model.
It is important that industry drives its R&D program. I believe that growth in the Australian grains industry is directly related to its long-term commitment to R&D, and I have confidence in the current RDC model and your partnership with the Australian Government.
The Australian Government welcomed the initiative of industry, which was sponsored by the GRDC, to develop the grains industry strategy, Towards a Single Vision.
Developing a common vision and strategic long-term approach to respond to key opportunities and challenges is important for the ongoing competitiveness and sustainability of your industry.
The success of Single Vision will be dependent on industry-wide support, ensuring the implementation of mechanisms that deliver meaningful outcomes for growers.
Finally, I congratulate the GRDC for its participation in the recent "World"s Best Food and Fibre" forum. And I particularly thank Terry Enright for his role as Chair of Chairs.
The forum provided an occasion for RDCs, government, industry and consumers to showcase the contribution R&D is making to primary industry productivity.
The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that R&D is delivering practical and commercial outcomes and is undertaken in response to the current and emerging market demands affecting your industry.