Ag needs solid foundation

The present model is at a deadlock financially and farmers are not in a position to break it ...

AS THE agriculture industry enters discussion about restructuring its national representation, a couple of key points immediately come to the fore.

Any changes will need to include plans to grow its membership and income streams. If we are to return agriculture to a position where it has serious political clout and regains the respect it deserves in policy making, we need serious numbers.

With membership numbers will come the funds and with funds the ability to compete in the job market for the best staff, plus greater potential for marketing ag’s cause.

The catch is that farmers won’t reach for their hip pocket until they can see how any new model is going to seriously capture the ear of Canberra and be taken seriously – and farmers alone won’t generate the numbers a new ag model needs.

This is why aspects of the US model, which reaches beyond the farmgate for backing, need serious consideration.

The present model (State and federal) is at a deadlock financially and farmers are not in a position to break that deadlock alone. If members of the broader community who also have some level of interest in the agriculture and the food sector can see value in being involved, it could provide the impetus to break that deadlock.

However, non-farmer members will only sign up if they feel their involvement is being taken seriously, hence commercial partnerships that are formed (ie, to set up membership discounts on products and services) need to include attractive brands with good deals for all members on useful products.

If such partnerships can be demonstrated, then we will have a platform around which we can grow a new structure.

It will of course need safeguards in place to make sure the focus remains on driving policy change in farmers’ interest, but spreading the base across the broader community will also provide in-roads into helping bridge the disconnect with suburbia.

The strategy will also only be successful if it has plain-English goals with clear steps for their execution.

If this can be established, farmers might well reach for their wallet, plus we could see the return to the fray of some of our more entrepreneurial-type farmers who would bring valuable skill-sets and innovation to a singular, clear voice for agriculture.

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


22/11/2013 7:24:10 AM

The simple fact is that without a new levy component the paying members of current SFO groups are subsidizing the tight-arse non-participants who benefit from much of the work but don't fund. Barnaby Joyce should implement a national system like SA's which could then allow 'industry-good' work currently done by Peak Bodies and SFOs to be properly resourced. Only then can we hope for this single national, multi-commodity body to eventuate. And if it doesn't all of Ag will be poorer $wise and weaker politically.
24/11/2013 6:42:44 AM

There is a new model and it will take the load off farmers' pockets and bring farmer unity. Farmer numbers are now too small to do it all alone. The new model is the Agribusiness Council of Australia. It is time to join together.
24/11/2013 8:04:47 AM

The Agribusiness Council of Australia Ltd? Actually, there is no sign of anyone investigating the ACA business model yet (just lots of talk on social media). First rule of business research, do your market review first to learn what is out there. The ACA has, but we don't shout about it, we just get on with doing it with a positive frame of mind...for everyone involved in our great Ag-industry sector, including farmers. The ACA model works regardless of how the NFF, SFO, etc. are configured. Growing solutions is the ACA credo.
24/11/2013 5:35:41 PM

The first job is to get the person responsible for reviving NZ's farm organisation membership, to tell us what they did. Next, it is important to keep membership to farmers families and friends of farmers, excluding associated businesses, because they have competing interests. Third necessity is to get unity from the ground up and that means from state level up. For every farmer who remains outside membership there is a hole in the boat. Then get policy positions on only those matters where the vast majority agree, with focus on core principles first. Splinter groups like PGA are death.
25/11/2013 2:41:52 PM

It is not that simple John. If farmers want to get some political clout, they need to get themselves together first. It is not a solution to get others in the Agricultural chain to finance farmers political power because their money buys their control. That is not to say farmers should not co-operate with all in the chain. They must. But you can't negotiate very well with a party who can cut off your food supply the minute you have a disagreement.
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.


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