Youthful faces noted at conference

28 Feb, 2015 01:00 AM

THE WAFarmers 2015 Annual Conference was held last Friday, Farm Weekly journalist Jacinta Bolsenbroek caught up with some of those in attendance to see what they thought about proceedings.

AGRICULTURE is changing, there are more pathways for youth and it's not all about being a farmers, according to Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture RICHARD COLBECK.

Generally, most forum committees discuss how to get youth to attend, try discover why they don't, and the need to get the younger generation to attend, according to Mr Colbeck.

However this wasn't an issue at the WAFarmers 2015 Annual Conference, where about 70 young people attended.

"It's great to see the kids from the WA College of Agriculture, Narrogin, exposed to industry leaders, thinkers and innovators. It can only be a good thing," Mr Colbeck said.

"There were a lot of younger people coming up to me, generally with questions about concerns they had around agriculture, what we might be able to tackle and why we are doing what we are doing.

"There are so many ways you can get into agriculture today, there is no one path.

"Agriculture is so much broader than just farming."

Mr Colbeck said he was impressed with the variety of speakers at the conference.

"It shows the strength in the industry," Mr Colbeck said.

"There have been some really good stories (here today).

"There was a range of people, who showed what's possible, to make people think and to get them to think outside the box.

"It is very useful to hear what other people are doing and how they are approaching their business'."

SUCCESSFUL industry stories and a young crowd is great news according to the Nationals WA member of Moore and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Regional Development SHANE LOVE.

"I think the industry speakers were interesting, because they are the real stories about people's success," Mr Love said

"The problem for agriculture, which has always been the problem, is that we are quick to point out the problems, but we need to celebrate, acknowledge, and learn from the successes.

"When you have done something successful, the good thing about agriculture is that unlike other industries, people are willing to share their success stories and let other people learn from their leanings.

"That has been the main message. If possible, find success and try to emulate it."

Mr Love said unless there are young people interested, there is no future for the industry.

"It was great to see all the young people at the forum," Mr Love said.

"The principal issue for agriculture is that the 50-year-olds, are not the last generation.

"We want young people to come along.

"It is an issue in some areas, and some places with smaller populations."

THE WAFarmers 2015 Annual Conference was a success according to the lobby group's president DALE PARK.

The first day, members selected new representatives, and presidents for grain, wool, and meat sections handed down their reports.

The second day attracted more than 180 registrations with guests hearing from a range of industry representatives and politicians.

"The speakers were brilliant, normally when you have so many, you have some that don't stand out," Mr Park said.

"But I think they were all excellent."

The past 12 months has seen WAFarmers focus on rebuilding.

This included a new office location, a new CEO in Stephen Brown, new staff and finding ways to improve.

In the organisation's 2014 annual report, Mr Park said WAFarmers has felt the pinch.

"As has been well documented, our main challenge has been financial," stated Mr Park.

"As with a majority of member-based organisations WAFarmers has faced an ongoing decline in the number of people signing up or renewing their memberships.

"The number of farmers remaining in the industry has declined at a rapid rate, WAFarmers has felt the pinch."

Stated in the 2014 Annual Report, membership income decreased in 2014 by four per cent to $1,018,463 and $170,000 shy of budget.

Sponsorship also decreased, by 8pc to $273,190, which was $91,560 less than budget.

However, WAFarmers reported that event-based income in 2014 resulted in a profit from events of $142, 397.

Mr Park said WAFarmers had looked at other ways to generate income, and minimise costs, such as the move to the new Guildford offices and the launch of the WAFarmers First brand of milk last year.



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