WE want to help WAFarmers find their bearings and reconnect with the truth.
In the dying days of the Barnett government, a report was prepared by an eminent panel for government as a stocktake on the Department of Agriculture and Food.
This report on industry views was never published.
WAFarmers' candid view in 2016 was summarised as follows:
This was what we inherited - a demoralised department that had four agriculture ministers in five years and a mass contraction of staff.
It had abandoned much of its research and development and was disconnected with industry.
WAFarmers chief executive officer Trevor Whittington's recent diatribe shows a Trump-esque attitude to this reality.
He, of course, was chief of staff to one of the multiplicity of agriculture ministers who presided over this fiasco.
Extraordinarily, he claims the new acting director general escaped the "killing fields" to the Pilbara Development Commission.
That is true - but it happened under his watch in 2015.
Or there's his claim that DPIRD will lose 75 staff over the next three years - when the budget papers actually show an increase in FTE at the department over coming years.
In fact, it's been our government that has managed to stop the rot at DPIRD - securing baseline funding for a department that suffered a 40 per cent funding cut under previous government and faced a further 37pc cut under the Liberals' last budget.
We got on with fixing the mess: restoring the agency's budget, rebuilding R&D capabilities, re-establishing credibility nationally and with local industry.
We abandoned the ill-conceived GrainsWest idea, stopped the sale of InterGrain to the Eastern States and won back the National Oat Breeding Program.
We have rebuilt and reinvigorated the research stations.
We could go on for days correcting the record and highlighting the many falsehoods espoused by Mr Whittington, but in reality, I have far more pressing issues in the industry to deal with.
I do not apologise for being an activist minister - for not simply passively accepting briefing notes, but instead actively listening to evidence presented by farmers on new practices and science that will build resilience.
We do have one point of agreement - that we need more of the corporate executive grounded in agriculture - we need thought leadership.
And that is precisely why we decided to advertise the director general's position.
WAFarmers' website states that it is working towards a "more viable, profitable and sustainable future for the agricultural industry".
That should put us on the same page.
We're investing heavily into R&D and funding support for farmers, including examining new and innovative opportunities to update farming systems and keep our industry internationally competitive.
As a government, we welcome constructive feedback and we understand that not every decision will be wildly popular.
But when the industry body claiming to be the voice of farmers instead morphs into a plaything for Liberal Party aspirants, it is not doing its job - and you can expect membership to continue to decline.
I don't intend to waste any more time feeding the beast and responding to the CEO's weekly rants.
Our energy will continue to focus on kicking goals for WA farmers.
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