The value of agricultural production at the farm gate in Tasmania is tipped to top $2 billion this year.TASMANIAN farmers were set for a bumper harvest after a good early growing season, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive Jan Davis said.

Ms Davis said that the good early season and the start of major irrigation programs this year, including the Midlands, would stand Tasmania in good stead in 2012 _ the Australian Year of the Farmer.

“This is going to be a really positive year for us, I can feel it in my bones,” Ms Davis said.

“We’ve been doing some research on just how sound the foundation is for farming in Tasmania, which has more than 3500 farms that produce milk worth $292 million, vegetables worth $241 million, cattle and calves worth $170 million as well as a host of niche food, wine and fibre products.

“The value of agricultural production at the farm gate is tipped to top $2 billion this year _ those are the big ticket items in our contribution to a national industry that is worth almost $50 billion a year to the economy, or 12 per cent of gross domestic product.

“Agriculture supports the jobs of 1.6 million Australians in farming and related industries and that’s 17.2 per cent of the national workforce.”

Ms Davis said few people realised that more than half of those jobs were in the capital cities, in sectors like food retailing, accommodation, cafes and restaurants and food processing.

“At the same time, we manage 61 per cent of the Australian land mass and deliver significant environmental outcomes,” she said.

“The latest statistics show farmers reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent between 1990 and 2006.”

Ms Davis said that Australian farmers were among the most self-sufficient in the world, with government support constituting just 4 per cent of farm income.

“That compares to 61 per cent in Norway, 23 per cent in the European Union, 17 per cent in Canada and 9 per cent in the US,” she said.

“And that 4 per cent includes things such as the diesel fuel rebate, which is not a subsidy at all, and Exceptional Circumstances assistance to farmers coping with extreme weather events.”

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