BARNABY Joyce told Queensland producers that addressing the live cattle issue is "on the immediate horizon" for the Department of Agriculture.
Mr Joyce spent his first day as the federal Agriculture Minister addressing producers at the AgForce State Conference in Townsville.
Mr Joyce was measured in his remarks about issues such as foreign investment and drought reform but said fixing the live export trade to Indonesia and pursuing bilateral trade agreements with China, North Korea and Japan would be a priority for the Abbott government.
“On the immediate horizon we have the live cattle issue – we have got to make sure we get that trade up and running and get the money flowing back into Northern Australia and start taking some pressure off other saleyards down the east coast,” he said.
“The Prime Minister, Minister for Trade and Minister for Foreign Affairs will visit Indonesia where they will start to rebuild these relations and try to get the live cattle trade flowing again.
“I’ll also be taking a trade delegation to Indonesia to make sure I do my part at a trade level and a personal level with the decision makers in that country.
“Getting the Korean bilateral trade agreement is vitally important, as is a Chinese free trade agreement. In the past five years we have had a twenty-fold increase in beef exports to China so there is a real avenue of opportunity there and we need to capitalise on that.”
Mr Joyce’s position as the Deputy Leader of the Nationals has earned him a seat in the federal Coalition leadership group which meets each morning on sitting days of parliament.
AgForce president Ian Burnett said Queensland producers shouldn’t underestimate the value of having an agricultural minister sitting in the leadership group.
“I think it’s the first time that an agricultural minister has played a role in that leadership group and it gives us great optimism that agriculture will finally get the focus it deserves at a federal level,” he said.
About 200 delegates attended the three-day AgForce State Conference which wrapped up in Townsville last night.
Mr Burnett said that while drought and poor market conditions were foremost in the minds of all Queensland producers, the AgForce conference had also focused heavily on future opportunities, particularly for northern Australia.
“Northern Australia is a critical point – people are suffering, they are doing it tough and they are looking for some good news,” he said.
“I think that made our discussion about a vision for Northern Australia very timely.”
“Another conference highlight for me has been the focus on the well-being of our members at such a tough time.”
“There are a lot of producers and AgForce members that are facing some difficult financial conditions and may be showing signs of depression.
“It’s not something that is talked about a lot but it is something we have been conscious of and we have been looking to help and support members where we can.”