Change grain R&D approach says PGA

30 Aug, 2010 02:00 AM
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PLANS to find a better way of spending $400 million a year on Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) in the Australian grains industry has been met with strong disapproval from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA).

The major project is based on a resolution from the Primary Industries Ministerial Council (PIMC), to co-ordinate a national "research" concept, with regional "development" and local "extension".

The PGA says the initiative is not a panacea for the grains industry with inherent problems set to remain unless real changes are made to the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Growers are currently being urged to provide their views following the recent release of the National Grain RD&E draft consultation document.

Farm Weekly spoke to GRDC managing director Peter Reading about the initiative last week which is only now coming to light after starting 18 months ago.

Mr Reading said the State Agriculture Departments, CSIRO, universities, GRDC and private investors were involved in the project and were spending about $400m a year on RD&E between them.

"This project is crucial to the GRDC; the question we are asking is how can we do our RD&E better?" he said.

Ray Marshall, Pingelly, was one of three graingrowers involved in working up the consultation document and last week urged all WA graingrowers to provide their feedback on it.

In focussing on GRDC, PGA Western Graingrowers committee chairman Rick Wilson, Katanning, said the RD&E system needed to change rather than up the ante.

"GRDC are currently spending $100 million per year," he said.

"It's very doubtful whether they are contributing to anything but marginal productivity gain and it's certain that there is a net loss on farmers' funds invested in GRDC.

"Instead of adding to the big smoke screen where levy payers can't identify the waste of their compulsory contributions, GRDC should concentrate on improving the returns on the money they are entrusted with.

"They could start by binning all climate change-related spending.

"The politicisation of man-induced climate change has undermined the scientific process and has corrupted the entire GRDC spending program.

"Then GRDC could re-focus on core activities rather than areas such as "extension".

"Consultants, grower groups, private concerns and other associations can and do effectively share information with growers."

Mr Wilson said in the PGA's reading of the new initiative, "We are reminded of General Haig's approach in the Battle of the Somme in The Great War".

"Having lost almost 60,000 troops in the first day of fighting, the General, steeped in convention, continued to "double down" on troop deployments and would have gone on forever if he'd had to," he said.

"It appears, unfortunately, that this is the path being pursued by GRDC and company.

"In announcing this initiative, the agencies involved are conceding that, as the system currently operates, they are failing the levy contributors.

"We need to change the system not up the ante."

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