TASTE TEST: Federal MP for Dawson George Christensen and Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie talked to Walker Farms owner Carl Walker about helping farmers expand into international markets.
TASTE TEST: Federal MP for Dawson George Christensen and Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie talked to Walker Farms owner Carl Walker about helping farmers expand into international markets. Jordan Gilliland

Bowen welcomes agriculture minister

NEWLY sworn-in Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie has said that market access, energy costs and stringent biosecurity were some of the key issues facing Bowen on her visit to the region on Friday.

Ms McKenzie has spent her first week in her new job touring agricultural regions across the country.

Along with Federal MP for Dawson George Christensen, Ms McKenzie toured cane growers in the Mackay region before travelling to Bowen to attend the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association Gala Dinner.

Before the event, she stopped in at Marto's Mangoes to discuss mango growing and technology advancements with Australian Mango chairman Ben Martin, afterwards heading to Walker Farms to meet with Carl Walker, the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association president.

Ms McKenzie said that it was impossible to forget the Bowen areas contribution to the agricultural market.

"If you look nationally at where the vegetable bowl of the nation is, it's right here in Bowen. We know that up to ninety percent of our national tomato produce comes from here," Ms McKenzie said.

"In my first weeks as agricultural minister I want to be on the ground and talking to actual growers in the region, and you can't ignore this region and its contribution."

Ms McKenzie said that she wanted to see the agriculture business grow from its current total of $60b a year to a $100b industry by 2030.

The agriculture minister said that every region she has travelled to in her week in the job produced different unique issues, but some of the issues that would need to be addressed to reach the $100b figure were the same across the countries regions.

These included the rising cost of power and the opening of market protocols to allow for easier trade in foreign markets.

"State governments need to get off the regulation case," Ms McKenzie said.

"Federal Governments need to open up market protocols and make sure that we get biosecurity right to protect and serve our farmers. I'm looking forward to helping growers in the region to be able to expand into overseas markets like China, Japan and South Korea.

"Energy costs keep coming up no matter what industry I have talked to. It's a drain here in the agriculture business as well, cold storers, irrigation as well as other uses. This means they're less likely to be able to employ and grow the business."

The tour of the Dawson region was at the invitation of Mr Christensen, who believed it was important that the new minister understood the area and its unique challenges.

"I thought it was important that Ms McKenzie met local farmers as well as key people in the area," Mr Christensen said.

"This has given her a brief introduction to these industries and the Dawson region, and the gala dinner tonight will allow her to meet even more key leaders from the industry."


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