National Farmers Federation meets with Bendigo stakeholders to workshop new ideas for agriculture

Could hemp and other left-of-field products hold the secret to growing the agriculture industry?

That has been one question raised as the National Farmers Federation tours the country asking people to have their say on plans to grow the industry to $100 billion dollars.

Agriculture was currently worth $60 billion and the NFF wanted feedback on reaching the new target after releasing a discussion paper titled Talking 2030.

NFF CEO Tony Mahar said his group was looking for input to enhance ideas, including those that went beyond a traditional focuses one trade, infrastructure, employment and telecommunications.

“We need to add to that with new and innovative ideas, with thinking from external stakeholders,” he said.

On Wednesday, farmers and those in the broader supply chain gathered at the Comfort Inn Julia-Anna in Bendigo for workshops and discussions.

Mr Mahar said possible ideas that might one day drive central Victorian farmers might be around productivity and efficiency.

“That’s an ongoing task for farmers, I know. It’s already happened with efficiencies being gained. We can continue on that pathway,” he said.

The NFF and wider industry could also turn to better transport and more efficient farming methods.

Or perhaps the secret to success would be left-of-field, blue sky thinking about non-traditional products.

Help from a central Victorian field. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

Help from a central Victorian field. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

“Just in the front of my mind, because we were having discussions about it today (in a Bendigo workshop), is  pyrethrum and hemp,” he said.

“There have been ebbs and flows in those products so they are not silver bullets. But we are asking what ideas could be looked at in the Bendigo and central Victorian region; and whether we are optimising the assets we have in the most efficient way.”

Industrial Hemp Association of Victoria president Lyn Stephenson attended the workshops.

She had a hemp farm near Kyneton and could foresee the industry one day being responsible for 1 per cent of the $100 billion industry.

“That’s $1 billion turnover by the year 2030 in hemp,” she said.

“Hemp can provide food, textiles and building products, which are fundamentals for human survival.”

The industry was really just getting started, Ms Stephenson said, with hemp seed approved as a food last November by the federal government.

“That’s been 19 years in the making. Now it’s approved there are more and more people coming on board,” she said.