During the past three years, the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has being calling for agriculture to be recognised in the state's planning schemes as a critical contributor to the economic success of Victoria - and especially the importance of maintaining our farming land.
For far too long, planning bodies have enabled applications for developments in prime agricultural land to be described by developers as being on "vacant land".
This is especially problematic in Victoria's "green wedge land" regions, where we are continually seeing ever-expanding urban environments given the green light to expand into highly productive farming land.
If there has been a silver lining experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been that the critical importance of local supply chains supplying food and fibre to Australians has been highlighted and appreciated by consumers.
The time has come to not just tinker with agriculture in regional strategies, but to include strong planning statements that not only protect agricultural land, but also provide the conditions for it to grow - and implement industry research and development that is good for production and the environment.
While it is great that more work is being done around Melbourne to protect farming land, the planning schemes still do not appropriately recognise the economic importance of farming land as the principle land use in Victoria.
Most planners are not well-versed in what creates a land use conflict for different agricultural production systems, and the planning system gives them very little guidance.
How can requirements to avoid impacts on agricultural production from secondary uses in farming areas be implemented without clear strategic direction from the state?
The VFF continues to work to deliver the "right to farm" for all farmers and to ensure that urban uses are considered when planning for urban growth areas - and productive farming land stays just that.