Tasmania's opposition has put agriculture in the spotlight

Tasmania’s opposition has put agriculture firmly at the top of its list of priorities, with Opposition Leader Rebecca White and newly-appointed primary industries minister Shane Broad citing the industry as a key driver for the state.

I really see there’s huge opportunity in Tasmania’s agricultural industry.

Dr Shane Broad

Agricultural scientist Dr Shane Broad was about to start a five-year role with the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture when he found out was going to take over the seat left vacant by Bryan Green’s resignation.

Instead, Dr Broad is now approaching agriculture from a different angle as the opposition spokesman for primary industries.

“I’m excited to be offered the primary industries portfolio. I’ve only been assigned one portfolio so I can really concentrate on it. I really see there’s huge opportunity in Tasmania’s agricultural industry,” Dr Broad said.

“I was sworn in less than a day after being elected. I’m planning to hit the ground running,” he said.

The issues he thinks will define agriculture are Tasmania’s irrigation schemes, the state’s brand and cooperative arrangements for buying and selling.

“Some irrigation schemes still need to be investigated, with areas not covered yet, particularly in the North-East,” Dr Broad said.

“With irrigation schemes we’re starting to see significant investment in the Midlands in higher value products, like cherries. It’s good to encourage investment on those products.

“Other opportunities are leveraging our brand and being strategic about that, and looking at taking a value-chain approach to buying and selling products and working together so we all get maximum value,” he said.

The state’s agricultural industry has another supporter in Ms White, who also cites irrigation and branding as key factors for Tasmania.

“It is important that Tasmania continues with improvements to water infrastructure with the aim of making Tasmania Australia’s food bowl,” Ms White said.

“One of the other ways [the state has worked to control its future] is how Tasmania has leveraged itself and the Tasmanian brand.

“Having produce that can be branded and sold as Tasmanian is important to Tasmanian farmers. There is a real point of difference,” she said.

However, Tasmania’s pristine reputation can only be counted on if our biosecurity restrictions continue, she warned.

“This ensures we can have access to some of those lucrative, high-end markets, like China, where we can get produce into those markets because of the trust people can have in our products,” she said.

Both Dr Broad and Ms White come from farming families.

Dr Broad grew up on a mixed cropping farm in Gawler and has worked in every aspect of horticulture, including being a farmer himself.

Ms White grew up on her family’s farm ‘Redbanks’ at Nugent, where her parents farmed beef cattle, dairy cows and had a piggery.