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The farm sector has welcomed a move by the Federal Government to reduce fees for tertiary agriculture courses by up to 62 per cent, as recognition of agriculture as an essential and high-growth industry.

Education Minister Dan Tehan made the announcement on Friday, as part of a new policy that aims to steer students to courses with good employment prospects.

National Farmers’ Federation CEO Tony Mahar said the move was aligned with the NFF’s plan to grow Australian agriculture.

“Agriculture is well placed to drive Australia’s post-COVID-19 recovery, supported by a skilled workforce.

“We know that the size of the job market far exceeds the supply of agriculture graduates.

“The NFF’s Roadmap to a $100 billion agriculture sector by 2030 recognises how critical skilled workers are to the sector’s success and includes a goal to double the number of tertiary and vocational agriculture graduates by the same year.”

Mr Mahar said by targeting government investment to reduce the cost of studying a higher degree in agriculture, Minister Tehan’s Job Ready Graduates Package would incentivise students to pursue a career in agriculture or to upskill to meet the evolving needs of the sector.

The Job Ready Graduates Package also includes a range of measures to lift educational attainment for regional students and to boost regional universities. This includes nearly $50 million to fund collaboration between regional universities, industry and other partners, and $21 million to establish additional Regional University Centres across Australia.

Mr Mahar said the NFF applauded the focus on growing regional universities, and improving the educational outcomes for regional, rural and remote students.

“Our regional universities make a significant contribution to regional economies, to the educational opportunities available to regional students and to the vibrancy of our regional communities.

“There is huge potential to grow these institutions and it’s great to see a focus on supporting university-industry collaboration, which will help to target research on on-ground priorities.

“We also welcome the appointment of a new Regional Education Commissioner to drive implementation of reforms outlined in the Regional, Rural and Remote Education Strategy.

“All Australians deserve access to quality education opportunities, regardless of where they live.”