I am sad to say that I have mixed feelings about next week’s biennial Food, Fibre and Agricultural Educators Conference.
This wonderful event will again encourage and support agriculture teachers from across Australia to educate their students about agriculture and its importance in their everyday lives.
Like its predecessors, the conference will feature inspiring presenters and thought-provoking workshops and discussions. The only difference is, this will be the last one. Ever.
In a short-sighted decision, the state government has cut funding to the home-grown School to Industry Partnership Program (SIPP) that has supported the teaching of agriculture in Queensland schools for nearly 15 years
For an annual saving of just $180,000, the government has abandoned a proven resource that teaches Queensland kids where the food they eat and the natural fibres they wear come from, and highlight the exciting career opportunities in agriculture.
In stark comparison, Education Minister Grace Grace recently announced $800 million funding for schools within five kilometres of the Brisbane CBD.
The axing of SIPP funding is indicative of the government’s attitude to agricultural education, its indifference to the need of regional and rural Queenslanders to have the same access to relevant education and training as city people.
Another example is the surprising announcement last year that the Longreach and Emerald agricultural colleges would be closed after five decades of service to the agriculture industry.
Our industry depends on having a well-educated, appropriately trained workforce that is passionate about working in agriculture, whether that be on-farm, in food processing, or in agricultural science.
You’d think that AgForce’s purpose to foster sustainable agribusiness would resonate with government – perhaps encourage a focus on research, education and training.
Sustainability underlies many government policies and the role that they expect of producers: to manage vegetation, ‘bank’ carbon, increase productivity, reduce chemical use.
These objectives cannot be delivered unless our industry is at the cutting edge of agricultural research, employs world-leading sustainable farming practices, retains the knowledge and experience we currently have, and attracts fresh perspectives and enthusiasm.
We all know this. We just need government to understand.
YOU CAN HELP SAVE SIPP – IT’S NOT TOO LATE
Sign the online Save SIPP petition on AgForce’s website – http://www.agforceqld.org.au – and share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #SaveSIPP.