GRAINCORP boss Don Taylor has told industry figures in Brisbane that farmers are poised to reap the rewards of Asia's rising food demand, flagging the adoption of GM technology as one way to boost profitability.
"We need modern farms with modern technologies to make us competitive and unless we make some of those investments, we will miss an opportunity," he said.
"Australia has been the leader in global technology and, in recent years, there's been a significant decline in the cost of this technology.
"I don't support cowboy approaches because I don't think that's going to be productive but I do support well-reasoned, sensible GM development."
Mr Taylor has been growing cotton for more than 20 years and said he went from spraying up to 17 times in a season to just three.
"We used to use chemicals to modify the environment and now we're modifying the plant so that it responds to the environment and we don't have the problems and the yield increases," he said.
Recently back from China, Mr Taylor said the country was leading the world in future planning.
"They've built visionary infrastructure 20-30 years in front of the demand that they're going to have. We just don't seem to have any of that sort of vision - we lack any long-term plan about the future of agriculture," he said.
Mr Taylor said there was also a critical need for government to invest in rail.
"We have a very variable production. One year it will be in Queensland and the next it might be in Victoria and we can't relocate that stock because it all runs on different gauges," he said.
"A quick change to the taxation in this country could encourage local capital, and by that I mean farmers' own capital, because they're closer to the ground.
"I would support a full review of the taxation system that taxes more around consumption and less around production because we are a world economy - most of our production is exported and unless we can be competitive, we're not going to continue to be the wealthy country we are."
Cheers - Dominca Carolan, Agricultural Appointments, Kirsty Rourke, Holding Relich, and Jodie Briggs, Austrex enjoy a lunchtime champers. Click on the image to see a gallery from the Rural Press Club lunch.
Mr Taylor said the cost of failure in agriculture was "incredibly high" and took a lot of money to grow any crop or to run a herd of animals.
"If you get one thing wrong - you can actually disappear," he said.
"The cost of not making the right decision this year has been very expensive because it didn't rain, cattle prices plummeted and the farmers who didn't know the alternative are now facing a lot of challenges."
Mr Taylor, who spoke at the Rural Press Club last week, said the government should invest in a national rural insurance scheme which would support farmers through such challenges.
"We're an outward facing economy living the dream but it's going to eventually run out of steam," he said.
Mr Taylor, who owns and operates a beef cattle farm in Moonie said it was vitally important to bring young farmers back into the industry through sustainable income.
"There are enthusiastic, talented people in the bush and I believe young people will go back to agriculture if it's profitable - forget the emotional tugs, it's all about the money," he said.
"It's time we stopped mucking around and started doing something about it."