Victoria's new Agriculture Minister has pledged that while she is up for the challenge of the portfolio at one of the most uncertain times for the industry.
Gayle Tierney has taken on the additional role, adding to her training, skills, and higher education portfolios before the most recent state government cabinet reshuffle.
She said there is some crossover in the portfolios and believes skill growth is fundamental to the sector's future, and also commissioned a review into agricultural training through the skills and training portfolio, which is currently before government.
"The Victorian economy is $17.8 billion worth, and our state [is] the largest agricultural producer in the entire nation, so it's a really important industry, one that I've known about for some time," she said.
"Whether it's the improvements with facilities at agricultural colleges like Longerenong, Dookie, Glen Ormiston or Marcus Oldham - [it is] very important to have our agricultural sector well serviced so that we have local facilities for local kids to be able to skill up and get fantastic careers."
Current labour shortages will be a focus too, and while most of that work will lie with Employment Minister Jaala Pulford, Ms Tierney said she was "very interested in this area and have been for a long time".
"We have set up regional workforce task forces, and every area of regional Victoria either has had those task forces, or they've got start dates,
"We want local, agricultural and wider industry movers and shakers around the table and providing evidence that is also backed up with Victorian Skills Authority data that demonstrates where our gaps are.
"Now, obviously, in some parts of agriculture, we know where those gaps are anyway.
"But what we need to do is produce a mud map that does point to exactly what is needed.
"The other key point I would make is that we need to ensure that whatever scheme is adopted by the federal government - it needs to be fair, and it can't exploit people."
Ms Tierney said while filling those skills gaps will be a focus for the government, more present and significant challenges lie ahead, with increasing awareness of biosecurity on the top of her list.
She said the state is prepared for any incursion of either lumpy skin or foot and mouth disease.
"Victoria is reasonably well placed and we're actually in a leadership position when it comes to biosecurity measures," she said.
"I'm very pleased to say that the other states are now coming on board to have a national approach in respect to electronic sheep tagging."
Ms Tierney acknowledged the threat of an incursion is on the forefront of the industry's mind, and many are calling on various preventive measures.
One of those measures called for by the Victorian Farmers Federation was a rollback of the rules that allow camping on riverside crown land, which was legislated earlier this year.
However, the government has stood firm on not making any changes and called on farmers to become aware of biosecurity plans, study them, and implement and develop them for their own properties.
"With biosecurity plans, campers need to require the permission of the owner [or] the farmer," she said.
"We would encourage farmers to make sure that they have got the biosecurity plans in place and that they have got notifications on their property that indicates that permission must be sought to camp."
Campers can currently camp on riverside sites through crown land and not farm land, according to the Livestock Management Amendment (Animal Activism) Bill 2021, passed through parliament earlier this year.
Regarding the broader threat of biosecurity of other diseases like varroa mite, Ms Tierney said a multi-focused approach is needed so people can understand their roles to counter any incursions.
Several briefings with fellow MPs, key groups and stakeholders were regularly occurring, with local governments planning to be briefed on FMD this Friday.
But there are questions about how relationships with those key lobbying groups can remain stable enough over a long period as the portfolio has regularly changed hands since Dan Andrews was elected Premier.
Ms Tierney has been the fourth Victorian Agriculture Minister since 2018, but while the portfolio "has got everything you could possibly imagine", she cited regular rules that say Premier Daniel Andrews has an ultimate say on who is in what ministerial position.
If re-elected at the November state election, Ms Tierney said she would love to continue in the role.
"I understand that stability, and I've been the Skills and Training minister for quite some time, so I understand the rewards of having that stability," she said.
"I love the [agriculture] portfolio, and I've only been in for a short period of time, so I would hope that there was some serious consideration of having some stability by the Premier, but that's completely in his hands," she said.
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