Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce. Lukas Coch

White paper aims to get farmers higher profits

HIGHER profits at the farm gate will be the main aim of a new agriculture white paper to determine the future of the sector, launched in Canberra today.

The paper, consultation on which begins immediately, will canvass the views of people and groups involved in farming, with a view to capitalise on Asia's booming middle class.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the white paper would start with a discussion paper released early next year, followed by a green and white paper to direct a final legislative program.

But while the Abbott Government has largely abandoned Labor's Asian Century white paper, Mr Joyce said the agriculture consultations would cover similar ground.

He said Australian farming was in "the right place, at the right time, with the right products", when it came to capitalising on growth in Asia.

Mr Joyce called on farmers to come direct to the government with their concerns, or through peak bodies, while other industry players would also be asked for their thoughts.

He said he wanted the "widest participation" in what should be a bipartisan process, offering to include opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon in talks.

"Agriculture works over decades, not years, so I want people to think 'If I was the boss in Canberra, this is what I'd do'," Mr Joyce said.

However, the paper will not consider industry competitiveness in fishing or forestry, and "human nutritional issues" are outside the terms of reference.

It will look at competitiveness, regulation, specific regional economic issues and infrastructure, market access and the current incentives for investment and jobs.

The white paper was expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

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