What a year for WA agriculture, with so much more to look forward to

Alannah MacTiernan Countryman
WA Agriculture and Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan.
Camera IconWA Agriculture and Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan. Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Who would have thought we would be talking about a 22 million tonne harvest for 2021?

Cyclones, frost and COVID labour shortages and supply chain issues — but still our farmers have delivered, big time.

You got the crop in and now you’re getting it off.

CBH has already received the biggest harvest on record, with more to come.

We will see the positive knock-ons from this season’s record harvest continue in 2022.

We’re hearing that the combination of bumper incomes and high fertiliser prices will see a lift in legumes and pastures, and a growth in break crops.

Beef, lamb and wool prices remain incredibly strong and production is high.

It is a remarkable feat of resilience — and the McGowan Government’s efforts to keep COVID-19 out of WA have ensured our agricultural industries continue to thrive amid the pandemic.

Harvest at Sam and Chloe Ward's Mingenew property.
Camera IconHarvest at Sam and Chloe Ward's Mingenew property. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Countryman/Countryman

We’ve thrown everything we could at helping to manage some of the challenges brought on by COVID.

In December, our 15th cohort of seasonal workers left our dedicated seasonal worker quarantine hotel — taking the total number of workers brought in since the start of the pandemic to about 2000.

That’s more than double the number of Pacific Island workers who were normally in WA, pre-COVID.

At last count, our Primary Industries Incentive Scheme had more than 2000 applications, helping to attract workers out to the regions and onto farms.

We’ve kept domestic supply chains open and made sure international trade could continue without disruption.

But things will change again on February 5, when we begin our Safe Transition.

Quarantine-free travel will return for the double vaccinated, both internationally and domestically.

We are pushing hard to keep our agricultural industry take advantage of reconnecting with the world.

We are investing $65 million in a new targeted marketing campaign to promote WA to skilled and unskilled workers as well as tourists and international students.

It is a remarkable feat of resilience — and the McGowan Government’s efforts to keep COVID-19 out of WA have ensured our agricultural industries continue to thrive amid the pandemic.

Alannah MacTiernan

The campaign will use our successful record as one of the safest places in the world throughout the pandemic and our globally high vaccination rate as drawcards for attracting people to the State.

Campaigns will be tailored to specifically address the skills shortage by attracting both skilled workers and backpackers for agriculture and other industries.

We’ve also launched a $2.7 million round of International Competitiveness Co-investment Fund grants to help our agricultural businesses grow their export markets.

These are grants of up to $100,000 to help agricultural businesses improve supply chains, scale up for export, diversify their markets and build international customer relationships.

As international passenger flights return to pre-pandemic levels, there will be enormous opportunities for new high-value exports in the belly of those returning flights — and we want to help local businesses get on board.

Of course 2021 wasn’t all about COVID. Throughout the year, our government:

  • Boosted our Digital Farm by another $6.3 million to bring broadband to 600 farms in the Wheatbelt, Great Southern and Esperance regions
  • Rolled out $10.2m in Value-Add Investment Grants to boost agricultural manufacturing
  • Won back the National Oat Breeding Program from South Australia and committed $10.1 million towards an Oats Industry Growth Partnership
  • Delivered the $6 million Wine Industry Export Growth Partnership
  • Opened our first round of the $15 million Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program
  • Committed to a $15 million Agriculture Climate Resilience Fund
  • Passed long-awaited laws to modernise agricultural producer committees
  • Provided a $15.1 million funding boost to reinforce WA’s biosecurity capabilities
  • Turned the sod on the $21.7 million WA Food Innovation Precinct and committed $10 million to boost food value-adding at the facility
  • Kicked off a $4 million sheep partnership with Meat & Livestock Australia
  • Released more than 270ha of prime horticultural land in Carnarvon
  • Introduced new laws to modernise the Soil and Land Conservation Council
  • Committed to modernising WA’s animal welfare laws following release of the independent Animal Welfare Act Review
  • Helped to secure a $32 million NAIF loan for the Kimberley cotton gin, building on the State’s $4 million commitment
  • Delivered more than $8 million in Natural Resource Management funding across the State

This important work will continue in 2022 — the research, development, extension and support to help our farmers stay ahead of the game in an ever-changing global market.

While much of the State slowed down over the festive season, our farmers were out there working as hard as ever.

So from every Western Australian — thank you. Your hard work is what inspires us to work harder.

Alannah MacTiernan is the WA Agriculture Minister.

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