Farmers need a voice to speak for many

Who is the true representative of the industry as a whole?

CURRENT issues such as the drought have highlighted the importance of a representative voice for farmers.

Many who are flat out running their businesses don’t have the time to know which buttons to push in Canberra, how to push them, or who to access to get the assistance they need to survive.

But it’s about a lot more than just drought.

The Australian Farm Institute’s (AFI) recent review highlighted specialist groups like the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association as having a particularly effective business model, due to their ability to focus on issues that impact a distinct group of producers, and therefore could more easily demonstrate a tangible benefit.

It also had the nimbleness to respond quickly to any situation.

But if we grow specialist representation at this level and let interest wane in the broader industry representatives, then who will Canberra and Macquarie Street listen to? Who is the true representative of the industry as a whole?

A single voice to deliver the overall message at State or federal level is still needed.

What’s also needed is not just nimbleness, but proactive pressure at the political level, with the farmers’ voice being heard before the ideological, or simply ill-informed, voices plant their agendas in our leaders’ ears.

Farmer advocacy groups need to have the ability to pressure Canberra and the States to make better decisions from the outset.

If the AFI is right, farmer groups might need more than just advocacy; but when it comes to options beyond advocacy, what can these groups offer that farmers can’t already get elsewhere?

And what value would these add-ons have without the advocacy?

The reluctance of many farmers during the current drought to ask for help, and even then the humbleness many showed in respecting the message that there wasn’t a lot of money to help, is possibly a clue to another part of the problem.

Farmers no longer feel valued in this society and until their representatives can make our political leaders and community understand the role and value they have to offer then how will farmers have confidence in their representative groups?

Proactive advocacy is surely key to the solution.

Andrew Norris

Andrew Norris

is the editor of The Land
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Chick Olsson
14/03/2014 5:00:59 PM

Archibold is correct. I have seen all sides of the state farming bodies , have fought them in the wool industry for the last ten years. They represent virtually no one, and always jump on any perch offered and squark the party line from who ever pays them, usually via levies via some hidden back door scheme…
13/03/2014 1:42:03 PM

Geronimo, You are advocating a recipe for failure. Representative bodies funded by government levies will in the end obey the money provider and do his bidding. Secondly 50% membership would mean all the existing bodies are gone, none have this level of voluntary membership, again another recipe for failure.
The Serf
13/03/2014 11:16:50 AM

Dickytiger; Abares disagrees with you and is 1% - 4% really profit? Not in my book it isn't. If you add in a 15% -20% profit there is almost no rural business qualifying. Spot on Chick, politicians are elected to "represent their constituents"; SFOs and peak councils came about when communications were poor and the roads were non-existent; that time has passed and its time Parliament stepped up to the plate.
13/03/2014 10:59:16 AM

Salaries should be linked to levels of membership. No one should be funded or consulted by Government unless 50% or higher representation of industry sector. If advocacy is your thing then boot-strap it like any other small business until you've got the numbers. Can't just walk in on a 6-figure salary and start making lists of projects to look busy. After leaving, should not be allowed in politics for 5 years.
13/03/2014 10:16:29 AM

The problem with the representation of members and constituents who farm is generally those that are the loudest are ones with their hands out for taxpayer assistance. How can any organisation or parlimentarian that wants to preserve a skeric of credibility represent this view. We need politicians and farm organisations to educate the ag community that the nation is broke and propping up inefficient farmers will land Australia in a Greekish quagmire. Government needs to get out of agriculture, we do not need their meddling or intervention.
Hilda Hereford
13/03/2014 10:15:52 AM

Chick, Well said, politicians like to say the "industry" (our supposed lobby groups, more and more paid for by levies and government) agreed to whatever draconian legislation regulation etc they want sold to us. We must get back to democratic representation and fast if we want to survive!!
Chick Olsson
13/03/2014 9:24:25 AM

This is what politicians are supposed to do, represent their constituents. Farming lobby groups seem more interested in their own financial preservation more than anything else.
13/03/2014 8:32:49 AM

Dickytiger, Where did you get that figure from ;ABARES in a recent report (2010) says only the top 25% are able to maintain profitability consistently. This was before the live ex ban and drought, so it would be worse now.
Veg man
13/03/2014 8:27:56 AM

Organisation such as Ausveg are extremely proactive in their advocacy. However unfortunately they do advocacy just for the sake of advocacy and are out of touch anyway so they become an embarrassment to the industry.
13/03/2014 7:46:00 AM

Two thirds of farmers are profitable Serf. The rest need to reconsider their future.
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A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.


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