The Queensland Farmers' Federation (QFF) and AgForce have united to call on the Palaszczuk Government to maintain funding for a hands-on agricultural education program that showcases where food comes from and highlights job opportunities in agriculture.
The call comes after Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner told State Parliament the Queensland Government would not be providing funding for the School to Industry Partnership Program (SIPP) beyond the end of year.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the School to Industry Partnership Program engaged with 10,000 Queensland school students and teachers every year, and consistently received widespread support across agriculture, and from schools, teachers and students.
"With polling conducted for National Ag Day showing 83 per cent of Australians describe their connection with farming as 'distant' or 'non-existent', teaching school children where their food and fibre comes from is now more important and relevant than ever," Mr Guerin said.
"This program has provided the first opportunity for many children to touch sheep, cattle and chickens, to learn that cotton is from a plant, to pull vegetables from a garden and to climb over tractors.
"The SIPP team also showcase agricultural job opportunities through initiatives like this week's Lockyer Valley Ag Inspirations industry tour, which is connecting local high school students directly with primary producers and potential employers in their local area. "
QFF CEO Travis Tobin said its members and the other industry members of the Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance that QFF co-ordinates were concerned the loss of the School to Industry Partnership Program would hamper efforts to foster future generations' understanding of and enthusiasm for agriculture.
"We need to attract, develop and retain a skilled workforce that will benefit Queensland agriculture's success and sustainable growth. SIPP plays an important part by increasing awareness of agriculture and the exciting career possibilities that exist," he said.
"The 'Queensland Agriculture and Food Research and Development 10-Year Road Map and Action Plan' highlights the need for programs like SIPP, and without an agricultural education program like it there is an important gap that will need to be filled."
The School to Industry Partnership Program began in 2004 with 100% of funds going towards whole-of-agriculture education activities and services.
The annual budget is $181,000 with two part-time staff employed to deliver the program.