When I started lobbying to get a better deal for farmers, I spent a lot of time being angry and jumping up and down and bashing my head against brick walls (metaphorically of course) and having doors shut in my face. To my credit as many of my admirers and non-admirers know I am one of those people to whom “no means almost yes” and I knew that to get that yes I had to get a lot smarter. I now do as much research as I can, consult those a lot wiser than me and surround myself with people I can learn from so I can leave my emotions (hopefully) at home and help take the solutions to the table.
Last week I announced the start of my new business Farming Ahead of the Curve. (See footnote). As part of this article I said
We (farmers) must rethink the way we engage with the policy makers and the politicians. Politics is the art of the possible and we must have a clear understanding of what our politicians and policy makers can achieve on our behalf and take the solutions to the table.
Just to prove my point along comes WA Premier Colin Barnett in this ABC interview with Belinda Varischetti
The Premier toured parts of the WA wheatbelt last week to talk to farmers about the problems facing the agricultural sector and some possible solutions
I am confident you will all agree that he could just as easily be talking about any state in Australia when he said
“Can I say, perhaps a slight criticism, I think that farm representative organisations need to be a lot more articulate in presenting to government what can be done and done simply, and maybe stop talking about issues like daylight savings and the like and concentrate on real farm issues. That would help government produce real results for the farm sector.”
“Maybe one farm organisation would help. The government doesn’t want to see itself as an umpire between two conflicting views. I’m not necessarily suggesting an amalgamation between the two groups, but they need to develop a united voice and express that clearly to government.”
And may I say amen to that Colin. Then he gave a list of things his government could do starting with giving farmers a bit of confidence and moral support
1. We can talk to the banks and ask for leniency
2. The government can do a lot to reduce the amount of bureaucracy and red tape that restricts farmers and therefore adds to their costs
3. We can do a lot more in promoting our agricultural sector internationally to provide sustained good markets into the future and Western Australia with its huge role in resources trade in Asia in particular is in a strong position to do that and we can leverage off our mining and petroleum to try and get a better deal for our farmers,
4. We can attract some more investment into processing and even investment overseas into better structured commercial arrangements to give security not only of sale but also of price that’s another important thing that we can do.
5. We can fund more research too and while research does often mean returns in the future, more work on frost resistant and salt resistant grains is important
It goes without saying that there was the obligatory plug for the government
“I think most people in the farming industry realise that this government has already done a fair bit in farming I mean the Ord River Scheme, the new sale yards that have been constructed, allowing GM canola and other things … but this has been a tough few years.”
But the politics aside he is right. We have to get our act together before its too late. We have to bring a kaleidoscope of solutions to the table and offer flexibility and scope to find workable solutions. We have to participate in the process otherwise we are just leaving the door open for others to put the solutions forward and nobody needs to remind us the trouble that’s got us into in the past.
BTW Has the livestock industry sent Julia Gillard an invitation to the world’s biggest barbeque after she finishes her meat free two weeks? Yes/No???
I think it’s time Merrick Watts paid a call on our PM. Don’t you
Footnote: I would like to thank everybody for the incredible outpouring of support for the ethos behind my new business. I have meet many great minds and passionate people in the farming sector over that last few years and I am so excited that this business will give me an opportunity to work side by side with many of them to be the change that must happen in agriculture