Food for thought | Our Catchment, Our Community

INSIGHT: Guest speakers Julian Carroll, Fiona Wiggs, Peter Anderson, Stuart Crosthwaite and Susan Benedyka discussed challenges and opportunities for the agriculture sector in North East Victoria.
INSIGHT: Guest speakers Julian Carroll, Fiona Wiggs, Peter Anderson, Stuart Crosthwaite and Susan Benedyka discussed challenges and opportunities for the agriculture sector in North East Victoria.

INDUSTRY leaders from food and fibre manufacturing provided food for thought when they presented their unique pathways in agriculture at the 2017 North East Agriculture Summit in Wangaratta.

North East Catchment Management Authority CEO Neil McCarthy said supporting the agriculture sector was the key to growing the economy of North East Victoria.

“We need to explore the value, activities, opportunities and employment that the agriculture sector can bring to the region,” Mr McCarthy said.

“North East Victoria is uniquely diverse in its production and associated manufacturing base and we have tried to bring together the key sectors that contribute to the productivity of the region.

“The summit featured guest speakers from grazing, forestry, wine, dairy, green tea and the logistics and education sectors. It also included an important session on managing the risks associated with climate change.

“Speakers highlighted the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats the sector faces and how we as a region can be innovative and supportive of the sector.”

HVP Plantations CEO Stephen Ryan spoke about a 30-year investment cycle in radiata pine plantations, the challenges of deer and bushfires, and new product innovations including cross-laminated timber used in social housing solutions.

Brown Brothers’ chief viticulturist Brett McClen spoke about a changing market post the global financial crisis and the rapid growth of King Valley produced Prosecco.

Border Express founder and chairman Max Luff said investing in and attracting the right people was crucial for businesses.

Mountain Milk Co-op chairman Stuart Crosthwaite said the dairy industry is profitable and sustainable and a school-based education program could deliver long-term benefits.

Mr McCarthy said agriculture had experienced a lack of support in recent years, with communities declining and climate change placing additional pressure on the farming sector.

“The summit highlighted the importance of resilience, long-term visions of up to 30 years, value-adding to products, decision-making through a climate change lens, supporting each other and working together,” he said.

“North East Victoria is well placed to capitalise on the opportunity to support the increasing nutritional demand from South East Asia and globally.

“We need to understand the key requirements of the sector in the region so that well designed and directed funding and assistance can be provided to sustain the sector,” Mr McCarthy said. 

Contributed by North East Catchment Management Authority.