Ag needs your voice

How can we do away with all the sitting around and finger-pointing to actually fix the situation?

WHAT progress or advances in human history have been achieved by everyone doing their own thing? None to my knowledge.

The Australian agricultural industry is as individualistic as many of its farmers are, scattered out on their “islands” across the country. And it needs to change.

The upcoming generation of young farmers and agribusiness professionals will have to stand up and be "joiners" if they care about participating in a strong and progressive industry.

There's been a consistent dribble of recent reports regarding the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) model being "broken" and the deterioration of our State Farming Organisations (SFOs). We get it: the system isn’t working. But how can we do away with all the sitting around and finger-pointing to actually fix the situation? Simple: join.

I’m yet to hear a convincing reason not to join - at least not from someone interested in the progression of our industry.

At the end of the day, the effectiveness and influence of these groups depends on numbers and money. If you’re not joining - and not paying your membership - their voice is weak. And at a ratio of 73 Australians for each Australian farmer, your voice isn’t just lost, it will never be heard.

I often hear people say some SFOs are ineffective, with poor lobbying power and average policies, or even unpopular leaders. Well: put up, or shut up, I say. Join to make change, muster fellow farmers and family to also join and start pushing for an effective system led by the right leaders with the right policy and value adding.

State and national farmer representational bodies have been eroded by the toxicity of Australian ag's "not my problem" culture for years. And as long as the NFF only represent 40 per cent of Australian farmers, we’ll never know what opportunities we’ll have missed.

Imagine if back in 2005, Peter Corish (then president of the NFF) had represented 95 per cent of farmers and had hassled the Treasurer, Peter Costello, day in, day out, for transport infrastructure. What if Jock Laurie in 2011 represented 100pc of Australian farmers when Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig called him about the live export debacle before a decision was made? We’ll never know what different outcomes we could have achieved - or can achieve - if we don't provide our representative bodies the strength to achieve it.

I’ve written before about the insecurity and waning culture in the farming industry - again I say we need to work on this and get it right, because it will open and close doors that cannot be moved by the traditional tools of the advocacy groups. You might think this is the fluffy part, the 'culture thing', but you don’t have to look far to see the power and effectiveness of a strong culture.

You can’t build consumer trust in food through policy - you can through culture. You can’t manage perceptions of agriculture through advertisements - but you can through culture. You can’t limit vulnerability to extremist groups through laws- yet you can through culture. And the more producers who join advocacy groups, the stronger our culture and our voice will be in society.

With concerns about genetically modified (GM) food increasing, along with issues surrounding climate change and animal welfare, consumers will start steering the boat to more “socially responsible” waters via a route that best suits them.

Wouldn’t it be a good if we beat them to the helm, steer that policy boat on a route that suits the industry and arrive when they wanted us to? After all, they buy what we grow - we need each other.

There also needs to be some serious State-based amalgamation, and a focus on joining together the groups that already exist that feed into the NFF. There is power in numbers, and splinter groups are muddying the waters when it comes to a united voice. The 50-plus advocacy groups representing our producers that are the "too many cooks" spoiling the broth.

We need to join, get in and have a go, be proactive, positive but realistic and not give up. Sounds a lot like farming to me.

Sam Trethewey

Sam Trethewey

grew up farming down south and now commentates on agriculture across Australia
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


18/03/2014 4:41:58 AM

Well put Sam. Biggest problem with farm groups is not enough boots sharing the work load. These groups strongly encourage anyone on board and are accepting of all ideas but only one viewpoint can be represented in the end.
18/03/2014 5:26:07 AM

Logic, I concur with your comments with a minor variation. These groups 'should' strongly encourage anyone on board and 'be' accepting of all ideas... P.S. Sam, Jock may have been more help to Ludwig if he had been in the country at the time and not swanning around South America leading a farm tour
Rob Moore
18/03/2014 5:28:12 AM

Sam- you're young keen and idealistic. Nothing wrong with that but you will learn that man likes to congregate in groups and many of the big changes HAVE come from indiv efforts that have been spurned or received little support I got off my island last Sept with a very sound idea to remedy Rural ills and politely contacted 100% of the people that could have helped the idea along. 96% didn't even open the info - let alone give me constructive criticism! I have put 100's of hrs in since and will get there in the end. Do you seriously think that I should be recruiting membership for them wtf!?
18/03/2014 5:30:44 AM

Yeah, true in essence Sam. However, as someone who is directly involved in a couple of advocacy organisations & has been for many decades, the "gaining members" or "just join" because it benefits you, is not that simple. Why do they want to join? What are my benefits? What am I buying? Advocacy groups are selling a product of lobbying. It's not something you can kick, bite & chew. It's a long term constant struggle to achieve any benefits. Sure they're needed but how do you sell the benefits? I'm all ears.
18/03/2014 5:48:43 AM

rcg; not everything we do should be about benefits, sometimes you have to do things (join advocacy groups for one) to ensure your voice is heard. Until farmers learn there is power in numbers we will, as Sam rightfully points out, flounder in the wilderness of obscurity, or worse, other groups will grab the agenda which, as we are witnessing every day, is not neccessarily to our benefit.
18/03/2014 5:56:49 AM

Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Franz Kafka, Mahatma Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Theodor Geisel, Steven Spielberg, Stephen Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Moses Did their best work alone..
18/03/2014 5:58:58 AM

What a load of cod's wallop! Sam, your living in a dream world! Revolution is what this country needs!
18/03/2014 6:05:36 AM

No Rob Moore, not recruiting membership for them, getting involved though may have been a big help to your cause? No reasonable person would expect that a you beaut idea from left field delivered in an envelope by an unknown would gain immediate response. The number of issues they are dealing with on a day by day basis allows little time to deal with blow in ideas however sound they may be. There is a proven process for injecting ideas into any organisation which is a little more involved and procedural than the track you have chosen. Time consuming and frustrating as it may appear to many?
18/03/2014 6:07:25 AM

Yes trigger and not a whinger amongst them!!
18/03/2014 6:11:40 AM

100,000 farmers have a voice but with the support of 1,000,000 agribusiness plus Ag supported they really have the voice they need in 2014. Only solution.
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Get MuddyTo think clearly in farming and about farming, you need to get muddy - commit, roll up your sleeves and get involved. SAM TRETHEWEY gets stuck into some of the issues facing those on the land.


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