The week's news and insights from the National Farmers' Federation
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Welcome to the NFF’s Weekly Wrap, bringing you the week’s farming and political news each Friday.
MUA sees sense, suspends port industrial action
Farmers breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when the Maritime Union of Australia agreed to suspend industrial action that started at Port Botany and spread to Brisbane, Melbourne and Fremantle ports. Cotton exports were among the first exports to be caught in the crossfire of the dispute, with congestion charges eating into growers already drought-diminished returns. Fears were held for red meat and the upcoming bumper grain harvest as well as incoming farm inputs. The NFF was critical of the MUA's action at a time when the economy is so seriously challenged.
New report reveals farmers will be short 26,000 workers by March
Data on the extent of horticulture's worker crisis shows by March the shortfall across the country is likely to be up to 26,000 with the problem most pronounced in north and south-east Queensland; north-east NSW, north-west Victoria, and south-east South Australia. The data was revealed in a new report released this week by Hort Innovation and prepared by EY. Farmers are hoping for meaningful measures to address their workforce challenges in Tuesday night's Federal Budget.
Pre-budget announcements deliver for the regions
On Thursday, Prime Minister Morrison named food manufacturing as one of six priority areas in the Government's Modern Manufacturing Strategy. Also included in this week's series of pre-budget announcements was a commitment by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to $100 million in funding over two years for the Regional Recovery Partnerships initiative to coordinate investments with state and territory governments to support recovery and growth across 10 priority investment regions. Both announcements are in alignment with the NFF's Get Australia Growing COVID recovery plan.
New body and focus for agricultural innovation
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud yesterday announced the creation of a new company, Agricultural Innovation Australia Ltd (AIA). Comprised of 15 Rural Development Corporations, AIA is designed to leverage private sector investment to unlock the potential of agricultural innovation. To kick start investments, the Government has committed $1.3 million in seed funding for the first lot of AIA investment strategies.
Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate given a lifeline
The Federal Government has today announced that it will double its funding for the On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme to $100 million. The news comes following increased pressure from the NFF and it's members to re-introduce funding for the Rebate Scheme after it was oversubscribed by an estimated 2,000 applicants.
Weekly insight
Stories from Behind the Farm Gate podcast
As part of AustralianFarmers' #BackOnTrack campaign, a new podcast features organic vegetable grower Christina Kelman's story of how COVID-19 impacted her business and why it was so important  for her family's business to stay connected with their customers...
Source: AustralianFarmers, 2020
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Agriculture supply chain under pressure on the waterfront

Port Botany became the topic of much discussion this week following ongoing negotiations between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), and stevedores Patrick, DP World and Hutchinsons Ports Sydney.

For weeks Port Botany has been plagued with go-slows and major delays as the MUA continue to negotiate for changes to pay and conditions.

Patrick, the container terminal operator, has disputed the sudden call for a pay rise, arguing that the actions taken by the MUA are a form of extortion and have come at a bad time as Australia begins the process of recovery from COVID-19.

The ongoing dispute and weeks of go-slows has led to a reported 38 ships and 100,000 containers delayed, with producers and exporters left helpless and exposed.

Industry has expressed its frustration over the MUA’s actions, labelling it as a stunt and calling on state and federal governments, as well as the parties involved in the dispute, to resolve the matter soon.

The delays have already impacted a number of agricultural commodities including red meat, pork, grain, wool and cotton, who have all been unable to export to overseas markets (an already tricky task given current political tensions).

Currently on the road to recovery following years of drought, farmers are well placed to help get Australia’s economy back on track but the last thing they need is a breakdown of the agricultural supply chain.

The grounding of passenger flights has made farmers far more reliant on shipping for perishable goods, meaning they are more dependent than ever on the smooth operation of shipping terminals.

Continued disputes will put Australian agriculture’s international customer relationships at risk and could sabotage Australia’s economic recovery.

Farmers breathed a sign of relief late Thursday, when the MUA agreed to suspend industrial action at Botany, Brisbane, Melbourne and Fremantle Ports for 4 weeks. However, to think that the dispute is resolved would be naïve and farmers will likely need to brace for unfriendly seas ahead.

Quote of the week
“We're just looking at any option and happy to work with Government for any option to get people on-farm, because at the moment it's desperate times for a lot of growers and they just need a workforce.”

Sent by the National Farmers' Federation, NFF House, 14-16 Brisbane Avenue, Barton ACT 2600

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