COVID-19 has delivered a wake-up call to Australia and the rest of the world about the quality and reliability of the country's agriculture industry, its federal minister David Littleproud said during a Rural Press Club address on Thursday.
Mr Littleproud described how farmers "calmly and methodically went about their business" during the coronavirus pandemic, keeping their cool and continuing to stock supermarket shelves.
The Nationals deputy leader added their "essential" work had underpinned the country's national security during a time of great upheaval across the globe.
And he said the time was ripe to capitalise on that positivity with "big sky ideas" and a concerted effort to enrich Australian agriculture's "brand" both domestically and across the world.
(COVID-19) has awoken all of Australia ... to the important role we play in feeding and clothing Australia and the rest of the world.David Littleproud
He listed innovation, greater efficiencies in production and regulations, protection of biosecurity standards and measures that will keep young people in the industry - "and not just on the farm" - among the Federal Government's priorities in the post-coronavirus climate.
"COVID-19 has awoken all of Australia to the importance of agriculture ... to the important role we play in feeding and clothing Australia and the world," he said.
"We don't want to let the window shut on that.
"We need Australians to understand our story; to cherish and value what we do ... and that it flows back to the farm gate."
Mr Littleproud said "now is the time to dream big" given Australia (with a population of 15 million) produced enough food to feed 75 million people.
"We need the best thinkers in agriculture to advise on the pathway (forward)," he said.
'Bring our young people home' - and not just to the farm
Attracting the "best and brightest" and ensuring the next generation stays in the industry are among the pillars underpinning the future of agriculture, David Littleproud said this week.
Speaking via a Rural Press Club webinar, the federal agriculture minister said a more collaborative, daring approach to research and development could take Australian agriculture to the top in innovation.
Australia is ranked 20th overall among the most innovative economies of the world behind Switzerland (4th) and the US (9th).
Mr Littleproud said there were "too many shackles" around researchers.
"We need to look for big sky ideas; we shouldn't be afraid to dream," he said.
"We should be unlocking them and they should not be afraid to fail."
Mr Littleproud lamented that much of the "extension work" from RDCs (research development corporation) to the farm gate had been lost.
He suggested reserach and development projects had to be moved to "hubs" closer to farmers "so they can touch it, feel it, smell it".
"(R&D) should not be in sandstone universities in the city," he said.
Integral to that is "bringing our young people home" - not just to the farm.
Mr Littleproud said young people were leaving agriculture; even parents were advising their children there was no future on family farms.
"We need to change the narrative for the next generation otherwise they won't come back," he said.
During his address on The Way Forward For Agriculture, the deputy leader of the Nationals said the government had made a significant investment in giving Australia "the smarts" to mitigate risk across global markets (including $25m in new technology for biosecurity).
He said Australia's reliability and ability to deliver quality during COVID-19 stood the industry in good stead.
And he agreed regulatory requirements needed to be streamlined so that farmers could be empowered to do their work more productively and more efficiently.