Labor’s plan to back farmers

LABOR will establish regional food and fibre clusters if it wins the state election.

Opposition leader Daniel Andrews said Labor would promote local produce.

Labor will invest $20 million in Food Source Victoria, a new program to build alliances of producers from the same region and with the same specialty.

Labor will also establish a special ministerial advisory council on young farmers – bringing together experts to advise the government on how to attract the next generation of farmers and growers – and provide $125,000 a year for a young farmers scholarship program.

To boost skills, Labor will create a $320 million TAFE rescue package to save struggling regional campuses and fund a $7.8 million state-of-the-art agricultural centre at Bendigo TAFE.

A Labor government will also establish a $200 million future industries fund – awarding $1 million grants to businesses specialising in the food and fibre sector, and in five other high-growth industries – and establish a $200 million regional jobs fund to support job-creating projects.

According to Labor, regional Victoria had gone backwards under the Coalition government with cuts reducing frontline jobs and hurting farms, and youth unemployment rates increasing.

Mr Andrews said Labor would help find the next generation of Victorian farmers.

“Food and fibre are the future of our economy,” he said.

Shadow agriculture minister Jacinta Allan said agriculture was a proud and powerful industry Victoria cannot afford to abandon.

“The Liberals and Nationals abandoned our regions, and it’s so sad to see young people leaving home,” she said.

“Aspiring farmers and growers need a government that puts people first, investing in their skills and their career.”

Victorian Farmers’ Federation president Peter Tuohey said he was heartened to see Labor’s commitment of $20 million to establishing regional food and fibre clusters under its Food Source Victoria plan.

“From what we understand Labor wants to bring farmers, food processors, government researchers and marketers together to drive regional food and fibre exports and growth,” he said.

“We’d still like to see more detail on this plan. But the concept of bringing together farmers and others along the supply chain to create regional agribusiness clusters makes sense.”

The VFF has also welcomed the promise to establish a ministerial advisory council to help promote and recruit the next generation of young farmers.