SLOW steps are being taken to reform the under-performing agricultural education system in Victoria.
The Government is moving to take control of a critical issue identified by two separate parliamentary inquiries and agreed to nationally in the past year.
"A significant proportion of baby boomer farmers are nearing retirement yet fewer young people are entering the industry,'' the parliament's rural and regional committee said.
Government last week responded to the committee's investigation which found the agricultural industry was at "a critical time''.
In line with a key committee recommendation, the Government has agreed to "undertake a costing study on potential reforms'' to agricultural education.
One key area will be the "under utilised'' former agricultural college at Dookie, now operated by the University of Melbourne, which has fewer than 10 live-in students.
MP David Southwick, chair of another parliamentary committee, which has just produced its report into agricultural education and training, told The Weekly Times he believed Dookie was being "wasted''.
The dramatic decline of tertiary students pursuing agricultural science courses also involves the lack of exposure to agriculture at primary and secondary schools.
The Government has agreed to "test the feasibility'' of establishing a specialist secondary school for agricultural education at year 11 and 12 levels.
To revitalise the farm workforce the government has also agreed to fund the appointment of a single rural industries careers advisor, charged with raising the profile of farm subjects across all schools.
As well the Government will host an industry roundtable to discuss many of the report's recommendations, including combating the "overly'' negative public image of farming.
The Government will also form a Young Farmer State Committee after the report found young farmer networking groups "are fragmented''.
The Victorian Farmers' Federation's Young Agribusiness Professionals will be invited to their first joint meeting on Tuesday along with the Young Dairy Development Program, Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, Ag Next, Future Farmers, and the Victorian Young Farmers.
Young farmers president Carlie Harrington said the group now had seven clubs and 300 members, well down on its peak when it had 6000 members.
"It does make sense for us all to work together on some issues," she said.
VFF YAP acting chairman Chris Walsh said he was pleased the government had recognised the need to boost the image of agriculture and encourage young people into the industry.