More use by south-west farms of underground water, getting more young local people to undertake a career in food and fibre and lifting the image of agriculture are among the short-term goals of the Great South Coast (GSC) Food and Fibre Plan.
The state government this week reaffirmed its $500,000 in funding for the plan that has been developed by the GSC Food and Fibre Council, headed by red meat producer Georgina Gubbins of Heywood.
The council’s executive officer Tony Ford said the plan had been developed over the past five years by a number of regional agricultural stakeholders.
Mr Ford said the GSC Food and Fibre Council had identified many goals but its immediate ones included freeing up many “sleeper” underground water licences.
He said only 34 per cent of south-west water licences were currently used and the plan aimed to develop mechanisms such as more appealing water trading and leasing arrangements to open up more irrigation opportunities.
Mr Ford said the council also wanted to seek funding for the employment of a careers officer to promote agriculture as a career to local young people and develop training pathways for them.
The move would address the shortage of workers experienced by many regional farmers and agribusinesses, he said.
A third project was to end the “poor” image of regional food and fibre industries that employed 20 per cent of the region’s workforce and generated 60 per cent of the region’s dross domestic product.
Regional food and fibe industries were treated as “a poor cousin” to tourism when they had many success stories, Mr Ford said.