Agricultural industries contribute more than $10 billion to the state's economy each year and underpin regional Queensland communities, but do we really value our farming sector? As we continue to unravel and attempt to understand the detail behind last week's state government's budget announcements, I am wondering how much we collectively actually appreciate the importance of agriculture to every Queenslander.
It was pleasing to see the Queensland government's ongoing commitment to prioritise water security for the state, with $510 million announced for water infrastructure and planning. It's an acknowledgement of how important water is to the future of agriculture, regional Queensland and the entire state.
Of the $510 million, $447 million will be set aside for water security projects ranging from the Toowoomba to Warwick Pipeline project, the Cairns Water Security program, rebuilding of Paradise Dam, and the Flinders Shire Council's Hughenden Water Bank project (a 7000 megalitre, off-stream water storage and distribution system) to support the future sustainability of irrigated agriculture, regional economies, and communities.
The budget announcements have also included an additional $10 million to be invested over two years as part of the Queensland Microgrid Pilot Fund with a view to enabling energy independence and building capacity in regional and remote communities.
Natural disaster preparedness, biosecurity capability, pest management and support for the implementation of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme to help address workforce shortages across the agricultural sector have also got a run in the budget.
But the big focus in this budget has been on health. Reports indicate that our hospital and health system is seriously struggling under increasing health issues, not just in Queensland but across Australia. Chronic conditions remain the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia and poor diet is a key contributor to people developing a chronic disease.
While Queensland farmers produce some of the best produce in the world, over half of us are eating less than half the daily intake of fruit and vegetables that we need. Scientific data shows that increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat is one of the simplest ways we can improve our health and combat the growing rates of obesity and lifestyle diseases that are plaguing our community and our health system.
The budget announcements included new hospitals and a new levy to pay for mental health initiatives to help tackle our increasing health issues and while these investments are quite rightly needed, is it time that we also look at how we can connect our communities and our eating habits with our farming capability. How can we support the future of our farmers and ensure our communities have both the will and the way to access affordable, healthy food. Education, sustainable supply chains and a strong future for farming will all play a key role in the future health of our communities. Let's value agriculture for what it is, an economic, social and health driver for all our futures.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.