Australian Farmers can supply us (and the world) with so much more than food and fibre

With 21st Century thinking and smart government policy there are many new and exciting opportunities for Australian farmers to thrive in a world of big data, a community screaming out for clean energy options and developing countries with a burning thirst to soak up our knowledge as well as our produce.

A number of our Young Farming Champions work with, share their knowledge and learn from farmers in developing countries. A number of them have taken advantage of the Crawford Fund scholarship support to engage in international research, development and education for the benefit of developing countries and Australia.

Young Farming Champion Sam Coggins has just landed a job with ACIAR and this article by Professor Andrew Campbell CEO of ACIAR is a great opportunity to share the work they do and the exciting opportunities for Sam in his chosen career in the Australian agriculture sector .

Sam_Coggins__5-1404.jpg

Sam Coggins taking his knowledge and passion for the Australian agriculture sector to the world 

Agricultural aid is in Australian farmers’ interests

Andrew Campbell, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research considers the pragmatic reasons why well-targeted aid, especially in agriculture, is in the long-term best interests of Australian farmers and rural communities.

Why should Australian farmers support overseas aid?

Especially agricultural aid – doesn’t that just give a leg-up to our competitors?

Well, no.

Leaving aside moral arguments that overseas development aid is ‘the right thing to do’ for wealthy nations like Australia, there are also pragmatic reasons why well-targeted aid, especially in agriculture, is in the long-term best interests of Australian farmers and rural communities.

Specific examples of benefits from aid flowing back to Australia described below all stem from the direct experience of ACIAR – the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

ACIAR was established by the Fraser government in 1982, out of a recognition that Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry science has much to offer developing countries in our region as they seek to feed their people and develop their economies.

ACIAR is an independent statutory authority in the foreign affairs portfolio, reporting directly to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.  I am just the sixth CEO of ACIAR in 36 years.  We have enjoyed remarkable stability over that time, enabling us to build very solid long-term partnerships from east Africa to the Pacific, developing many projects that have delivered benefits back to Australian rural industries and communities.

Last week, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched our new 10-year strategy.

In many ways ACIAR is similar to Rural R&D Corporations, in that we organise and fund research, but our focus is overseas, taking Australian science to developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and we work across livestock, crops, horticulture, fisheries, forestry, land, water and climate.

Australian farmers and rural communities benefit from the work of ACIAR in several ways:

  • At the most basic level, as an exporting country, we do better when the countries in our region can afford to buy our products.  As economies develop and people get richer, they consume more meat, dairy, fruit, processed cereals, sugar, wine and wool, and they demand higher quality food.
  • Australian scientists working on pests and diseases in developing countries can help to manage risks and limit the spread of major problems before they reach Australia.  In doing so, they also get opportunities to work on problems that thankfully don’t (yet) exist in Australia, enabling them to build skills in detection, diagnosis and control of exotic diseases.  This has proven of crucial value for Australia, for example with Panama Disease in bananas, and Newcastle Disease in poultry.
  • ACIAR investment in collaborative breeding programs gives Australian industries access to new varieties.  For example, seven new citrus rootstocks were recently released into the Australian market, developed from disease-resistant and salt-tolerant Chinese cultivars through a collaboration with NSW DPI funded by ACIAR.  Germplasm used by Australian wheat breeders to release high performance varieties to Australian growers draws heavily on material from CIMMYT – the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico – funded by ACIAR and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
  • ACIAR-funded fruit fly research directly helped mango farms in North Queensland, when exports to Japan were withdrawn in 1995 due to fruit fly incursions. The Queensland DPI was able to develop postharvest treatment protocols for Australian mangoes much faster because of their work for ACIAR in Malaysia, resulting in approval to restart exports at least six months sooner than would have been possible otherwise.
  • ACIAR often supports Australian researchers to work with partners in neighbouring countries to tackle a shared challenge.  The strength of our innovation system leads to new technologies being trialled and adopted first here. Research on growing tropical tree crops, such as mango, jackfruit and cocoa, on trellises for greater productivity and cyclone resistance, led by Queensland DAF with support from Horticulture Innovation Australia and ACIAR, is now offering trellising as a potentially transformative technology to Queensland growers. Research to tackle productivity problems associated with plant viruses in sweetpotato crops in PNG, has led to virus therapy techniques and virus-free planting material being adopted as the foundation for a more productive sweetpotato industry in Australia.  Techniques developed by Prof Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University to restore degraded fringing coral reefs in the Philippines (by stocking hatchery-reared coral larvae at the time of larval settlement into enclosures over the reef) are now being trialled on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • ACIAR is an important source of applied research funding for regional universities and state departments of primary industries, with major flow-on benefits for regional centres like Wagga, Armidale, Orange, Lismore, Toowoomba, Gatton, Roseworthy, Mildura, Yanco, Townsville, Hobart, Darwin and Maroochydore.

While I have great admiration for agricultural economists, benefit:cost ratios tell only a fraction of the story of why investing in agricultural aid in our region makes good business sense for Australia.

 Andrew Campbell, CEO, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

All over the world, evidence over the decades since World War 1 has shown that investment in agricultural research delivers great returns, within and between nations.  ACIAR has a fine tradition of measuring and tracking the impact of our investments.  Some projects deliver exceptional benefit to cost ratios.  For example, clonal improvement of eucalypt and acacia plantation genotypes in Vietnam delivered returns of around 80:1, and vaccination of village chickens in east Africa delivered returns of around 60:1.

Perceptions that our aid helps competitors to out-compete our own exporters don’t hold up under closer examination.  Smallholder producers in developing countries rarely compete in the same high-value markets as Australian exporters.  The gap in most instances remains very large, and reducing it somewhat usually creates opportunities for Australian industries.

For example, Indonesia wants to become self-sufficient in beef, and ACIAR is funding the University of New England, CSIRO and the University of Queensland to help lift beef productivity and production in eastern Indonesia in particular.  But beef self-sufficiency for Indonesia remains a very long way down the track.  In the meantime, they will need many breeding cattle from Australia and multiple linkages with the northern beef industry in particular.  Building these links will help Australian exporters and producers.

Mangos are another example.  Market studies around the Asia-Pacific, led by Griffith University in collaboration with the Australian Mango Industry Association, with input from state and territory DPIs and support from ACIAR, have shown how mango markets are differentiated by seasonal time slots and price points, local market preferences and varietal characteristics.  Innovations in pest and disease management, flower induction and post-harvest handling can bring benefits to the mango industry in Australia and in partner countries.

Overall, over the last 36 years, using very conservative assumptions and only counting the benefits that can be quantified and costed, the ACIAR portfolio has delivered benefits at least five times greater than our total expenditure.  Many benefits from more recent projects are yet to be fully realised.

While I have great admiration for agricultural economists, benefit:cost ratios tell only a fraction of the story of why investing in agricultural aid in our region makes good business sense for Australia.

Being a trusted science partner across our region, helping neighbouring countries to tackle some of their most pressing problems using Australian know-how, is a very tangible, practical demonstration of our commitment to regional security, prosperity and sustainability.  In doing so, we learn a lot and we develop new capabilities that help our own industries, and in the long term we create more and better market opportunities for Australian farmers.

In short, the 2.5% of the Australian overseas aid budget managed by ACIAR delivers terrific value for Australian farmers, rural industries and rural communities.

Andrew Campbell is the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Red tape is destroying farming communities – methinks we might protest too much

Social licence.JPG

Here is an extract of an article from a very passionate person.

Red tape is destroying farming communities, yet the best the Turnbull government can do is launch another review.

At end of March, the government announced it would undertake a review into the red tape imposed on farmers by federal environmental regulation. 

But this review, like most others, will end up providing a massive pay day for the bureaucrats who run it, only to sit on the shelf and gather dust for decades to come.

What is so troubling is that the government is not taking this issue seriously. 

In announcing the review, the government said they would be “weeding out unnecessary red tape for farmers.” 

Red tape is more than just a few weeds that need to be pulled out. 

Only root and branch reform, involving the total extermination of red tape, and the bureaucratic pests which impose it, will help restore prosperity and opportunity to the agricultural sector.

Here’s how to do it. Read the full story here 

Whilst I laud me Mr Wild for his support of farmers I struggle with the concept that farmers have imposts the rest of the world escapes

Not so – in reality farmers have a social licence the rest of the world envies. Look at the humble dog owner and the code of practice.

Have a dog, the red tape says

  • get it chipped
  • keep it on a lead in public places
  • pick up its poop and dispose of it responsibly
  • dont dock its tail to name but a few

Social licence is earned. Our role as farmers is to show we deserve the freedoms we have and that means working with government and the community in an open and transparent way. Yes its hard work and we have to jump through lots of hoops but that’s farming in the 21st century. We are no different from any other business and we have to be prepared to show the faith the community has in us is warranted

Rudderless Dairy – makes my heart bleed

Yfmq5GGe_400x400.jpg

Marian McDonald was a gusty woman when she took on the family farm in 2008. She bought a refreshing feistiness to dairy conversations. She is a champion of the grass roots, is not afraid to tackle the tough issues in her blog MilkMaid Marian, she asks the questions that need to be asked of people who should have the answers and she has the courage of her convictions

Today she gives her thoughts on John Mulvaney’s opinion piece in The Weekly Times in her post Disillusioned Dairy  

Mike Logan the former CEO of Dairy Connect also reflected on the state of the Australian Dairy Industry in Nov last year in his opinion piece Australian Dairy has Lost its Rudder.

Mike says

The leadership challenge of the Australian dairy industry has increased to a level that I believe is insurmountable without significant government intervention. I am not a supporter of government intervention.

Unfortunately, the time has come.

…..

The hubris of the board and senior executives of MG ( Murray Goulburn) has left the Victorian dairy industry – and by association, the Australian dairy industry – without a guiding rudder. The Victorians are at sea and going nowhere and are hoping for tides or winds to take them.

….

Put simply, the end of the era of co-operatives has allowed the processors to control the industry. Presently, there is no unity between the farmers and the processors. Many will blame the supermarkets but the numbers don’t support that view. It is not Colesworth.

The leadership challenge is within the industry itself. Specifically, the leadership challenge is with the farm sector of the dairy industry.

…….

The ship is at sea, rudderless.

It is tawdry to note that the current Chairman of the ADF is also an ex-chairman and I believe a current Director of WCB. Another Director is from Fonterra. Most of the ADF’s budget is channelled through the processors. Clearly, the processors control the farmer’s representative body.

Mike comes from an industry with a highly successful farmer leadership lobby model in Cotton Australia. As a former Chairman of the Board of the Cotton Research and Development Corporation he bought a breath of fresh air, a wealth of experience and drive and like Marian feistiness to the dairy industry.

In his opinion piece Mike proffers the following solutions

What should the ADF do?

The ADF is the focal point of the leadership challenge. The ADF needs to reform itself into a functional & efficient dairy farmer representative body.

What should the Government do?

The government is rightly reluctant to interfere in industry policy and strategy. Governments all hope to be guided by an industry with a unified approach to the challenges of the future. When governments are forced into these positions they usually deliver blunt and inelegant solutions. Often, there are deleterious impacts from the unintended consequences of government interference in industry policy.

The Government is now at a point where it has to assume that role. The government has to free up the relationship between the farmers and the processors by addressing the focal point of the relationship – the contracts.

You can read the full piece here  It makes one hell of a lot of sense

My thoughts on farmer leadership in dairy?

As some-one who did put their hand up for roles on farmer lobby groups I agree with Marian. We wear out our champions. The majority of us are under-prepared from a governance, negotiation skills and general whole of supply chain knowledge capacity to make the changes required.  I was one of those under-prepared. ADF has some fresh blood and now has funding to build leadership capacity for our farmers. I look forward to them using it wisely. I look forward to our farmers seeking out the successful models, asking the right questions, being prepared to listen and feeling confident they have the skills and the support of their fellow farmers to take the Australian Dairy Industry to the heights it deserves

Added note. Another hugely successful farmer lobby group model is Farmers for Climate Action I know why this model works so well. It would be a very exciting day if  Australian dairy farmers embraced this model. Look out world

 

 

“Showgirl” – when we ask ourselves what do we hold dear – the outcome or the moniker?

The Land Showgirl Competition.JPG

The Land Showgirl Competition means so much to many young women in agriculture I work with.  Yet is struggles to gain the respect it deserves. Others ask is the name “Showgirl” doing the competition more harm than good? My take is the competition is very relevant – the name no longer

Excellent work WinNews with this coverage.

Showgirls have been a staple at the Sydney Royal Easter Show since 1962; however, questions have been raised as to whether the competition is relevant in today’s society. We follow one Showgirl’s journey from paddock to podium to find out.

Australian agriculture is full to the brim with exciting young people

Never in my life have I been so proud to pass the ball, exchange the baton, give a voice to NextGen as I was when the Australian Farm Institute invited me to speak at their Roundtable in 2017 as the day I passed the baton to Young Farming Champion Dione Howard. Five minutes is a very short time to get your message across. Let alone do it with so much power.

It is such a ridiculous furphy that Australian agriculture is seen and promoted as a sunset industry full of old grey haired men. Dione is just one example of the 1000’s of exciting and dynamic young people in the agriculture sector. Time to celebrate Sunrise. This report is just a drop in the ocean of exciting young people who see agriculture as their future.

#strongertogether #youthvoices18   #youthinag

The Land – objectifying women in agriculture as breeding stock is not 21st Century thinking

The Power of the Blog – so pleased to see The Land step up and update their article post my original blog.

Nikki is a very worthy winner and The Land’s updated post now shares with the world her values and her willingness to develop her skills to benefit her community. Look forward to the full story in this week’s Land

 

r0_804_3280_4512_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg

#strongwomen #strongertogether

Catherine Marriott’s spirit is strong. Her courage extraordinary. We #standwithMaz

The Marriott Girls.jpg

The Marriotts – a family of legends – courage personified 

As Australians across the country rally to #standwithMaz by tuning into ABCLandline today to watch Catherine Marriott on the Pardoo Station segment  I am reflecting on the  positives of Catherine’s bravery in taking a stance against inappropriate behaviour towards women by people in powerful positions.  It has highlighted the courage of women in the agriculture sector and unified the sector with a collaborative call to action from both men and women, organisations, business and the community.

I remain stunned anyone would question the timing of the complaint. As I said in a previous post I have no idea what I would do. In the first instance I would want to be 100% confident of my family support, support of friends and knowing my networks have my back. Catherine Marriott has all of those in spades.

Then I would think about self care. Like many others, I too have been bullied on Twitter. I have seen how tough it can be at a political level. I remember vividly walking into a national meeting in Melbourne of a NSW industry  group I was representing. The first thing that happened was been taken into a corner by one of the other women in the room who said I hope you wore your armour, women on committees in our industry in Victoria are only seen to be here to serve the tea and scones. She was right it was very unpleasant. I didn’t last long.

Quoting National Farmers Federation President Fiona Simson from this article Barnaby Joyce leak shocks rural women amid sexual harassment investigation it should be obvious to everyone why I believe people don’t just automatically walk into police stations

“I think some of it is not understanding what is acceptable and feeling maybe a little bit guilty about calling some of it out. But I also think there is a bit of fear around what the repercussions are going to be.”

“Am I going to be trolled if it’s on social media? Am I going to be outed in the workplace? Am I going to lose my job, am I going to be able to progress on the career path that I’m on?”

Catherine Marriott’s recent media statement reiterates this

“This complaint was made not only to address the incident against me — it was about speaking up against inappropriate behaviour by people in powerful positions,” she said.

“Suggestions to the contrary are hurtful, incorrect and the very reason why I hesitated to come forward at the time of the incident.

“Speculation on this issue by people who are unaware of the facts is impacting my right to a fair and due process. The additional stress of having to go through this publicly and with people’s judgement is the exact reason people don’t come forward.”

Self care has to be the number one priority.  Catherine’s bravery has provided an opportunity for our rural champions to come out in force saying to other courageous women we are here for you, we will support you and we will lobby to ensure that courageous women (and men) get the pastoral care they deserve as well as fair and due process  

Catherine Marriott’s spirit is strong. Her courage extraordinary. We #standwithMaz #solidarity4Catherine #strongertogether #strongwomen