As we celebrate National Agriculture Day on Tuesday 21 November Charles Sturt University (CSU) Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley, from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation writes it's time for the sector to blow its own trumpet.
The latest Farm Facts from the National Farmers Federation show Australian farmers produced $58.1 billion worth of food and fibre in 2015/2016; the sector supports more than 1.6 million jobs; and agriculture represents more than one in seven of Australia's export dollars.
National Agriculture Day allows us to celebrate this national contribution.
Underlying this is a dynamic, professional industry at the leading edge of technology which needs a continuing skilled and educated workforce. Currently there are upwards of five jobs per graduate. Universities continue to report near full employment of graduates with jobs secured in most cases well in advance of study completion. This has resulted in a resurgence in course intakes as young people see the opportunities in agriculture. But more are needed.
In December more than 260 agriculture, veterinary, animal science, horticulture, viticulture and agribusiness students will graduate from Charles Sturt University (CSU). Many already have jobs, on farms, in consultancy, finance, government and along the supply chain. Others will have a career in research. As Plant Systems Pathway Leader at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation I'm privileged to see PhD and Honours students complete their studies and contribute to a more profitable and sustainable agriculture sector. Attracting talented young scientists to work in agricultural research is vital to ensure that Australian agriculture is well placed to take advantage of expanding markets in Asia and to tackle challenges such as climate change.
In the past decade, primary industries have restored their links to the community and built trust. The image of agriculture is now positive. School agriculture has been transformed to an integral part of the curriculum as students learn where their food comes from – but we need more agriculture teachers. Capacity building is now in strategic plans of most industry bodies.
National Agriculture Day provides an opportunity for the primary industries sector to show why our young people should consider a career in agriculture.