Extension service needed

28 May, 2003 10:00 PM

CUTS in funding to the Agriculture Department and the subsequent slashing of 150 positions are concerning but the real problem is the loss of extension staff in rural areas according to WAFarmers.

WAFarmers president Colin Nicholl said there needs to be a local interface between the agency and the industry in order for the department to remain relevant.

"WAFarmers supports the departmental focus on research and development activities but the impact of this vital work is reduced if field trials are restricted and the results are not communicated to farmers at a regional level," he said.

"Many of the department's regional offices are already significantly under-staffed and cutting or even relocating staff members will have a dramatic effect on the service offered to our farming community.

"Better coordination and integration of research and development facilities in the Department of Agriculture and tertiary institutions warrants further investigation.

"The government needs to look at ways of reducing the duplication of services across agencies in areas such as administration, economics, trade and marketing and applying the savings towards on ground extension services.

"Rural communities need local departmental representation to give them access to the information necessary to run their farm.

"A farmer in the Esperance region should not have to contact a representative in Albany for details on a localised agriculture issue.

"They need people on the ground who understand the intricacies of their home patch.

"This just isn't going to happen with less regional staff spread widely across the state."


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