Barnaby Joyce believes recent economic growth figures should silence the “snobs” who mock farming.
The December quarter national accounts report released last week showed agriculture, forestry and fishing production rose 8.3 per cent in the December quarter
It was the strongest performance of all industries and more than double that of mining, which was in second place at 3.4 per cent.
Now the federal government’s commodity forecaster is predicting the value of farm production to set a record of $63.8 billion for the 2016/17 financial year.
“This is an important economic reminder to those who seek to disparage and ridicule our agricultural resource sectors,” the agriculture minister and acting prime minister told a conference in Canberra on Tuesday.
“We have got to get off the political glossy pages and on to more substantial debates that will actually determine our nation’s future.”
Mr Joyce was giving the opening address on the first day of the annual Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences outlook conference.
The forecaster expects the value of farm production to be slightly lower in 2017/18, at $61.3 billion.
But ABARES executive director Peter Gooday said this would still be 17.3 per cent higher than the value average for the five years to 2015/16.
“The exceptional value of farm production this year comes off the back of record crop production and strong performance across livestock industries,” he said.
He expects the value of production to remain above $60 billion in the medium term as gains in the production of crops and livestock are offset by lower global prices through increased competition.
Export earnings from farm commodities are forecast to reach a record $48.7 billion next year, topping the $47.7 billion for 2016/17.
Innovation is a key theme of the 2017 conference.
Mr Gooday said with prices not expected to rise in the medium term, increases in profitability will need to come from improved productivity.
“Innovation across the supply chain will be critical for that, including making the most of new technology,” he said.