Time for youth to speak up

26 Mar, 2003 10:00 PM

THERE will be a changing of the guard at the WA Farmers Federation next year and the new president is likely to preside over issues which will influence farming for generations.

WAFarmers president Colin Nicholl told members at the annual conference that this would be his last term in office.

It is unlikely all the crucial issues will be resolved in the next 12 months ‹ such as the commercial introduction of genetically modified crops, compensation for property rights claims, the deregulation of the wheat industry or the reduction of government services in rural areas.

So the new chief is bound to find himself in the hot seat.

There are also concerns that young farmers do not support lobby groups, preferring organisations which offer information on production and technology.

WAFarmers senior vice-president Trevor De Landgrafft (pictured) is the man most likely to take over the top post ‹ although he concedes it is not a foregone conclusion.

The 46-year-old grain and woolgrower is well aware of the many challenges ahead.

"I plan to make myself available for the position of president," Mr De Landgrafft said.

"The members have supported me as I have progressed through the organisation and I think there is an expectation that I put my hand up.

"But we are a democratic organisation and the position is voted on by all members, so ultimately they will decide.

"It would not be good for an organisation to get so comfortable with knowing who was coming along, that it left no room for new people."

Mr De Landgrafft said the producers were "on a knife edge with a number of issues" which would have long-term impacts on farming systems.

"There is the debate about the introduction of GMOs, one vote-one value, the total withdrawal of government services from the bush, environmental impacts on farming and transport legislation swamping the industry," he said.

"GMOs have few safety issues but people do have some concerns with marketing and we should look carefully at other nations who have taken up the technology before we give up any advantage that might come from remaining GM-free.

"We need to continue to promote research into biotechnology because it will increase production and we develop genotypes for our environment.

"If we can develop the technology locally with some public ownership, it would give growers a degree of control.

"The one-vote one-value legislation will reduce rural representation in parliament and ties in with the reduction of government services to regional areas.

"We have seen the demise of the Agriculture Department as we know it, which has left growers with little opportunity to seek independent advice.

"Maybe we need to develop different criteria to rationalise services in country areas."

Mr De Landgrafft said one of the main challenges would be to involve the next generation of producers in guiding the future of farming in WA.

"We are at a point in history when we need full involvement," he said.

"Agriculture in Australia has be rationalising for 20 years. Numbers have dropped 50pc in that time and we have to think of new ways to get the ear of the government.

"Lobby groups have less resources ‹ it is a question whether we learn to live with that or we ask members to contribute more.

"We are missing a generation of young aggressive people fighting to be involved in the decision-making processes.

"Many have said that lobbying is dominated by people they find it hard to relate to and I think we could be more inclusive.

"We need input from across the spectrum, to give opportunities to those who might want to come forward."



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