Last Friday I travelled to Robe - about 330 kilometres south east of Adelaide - to address a meeting of Livestock SA – a group representing South Australian cattle, sheep and goat producers.
I always value the opportunity to get out from behind the desk to meet with farmers outside the city boundaries and to hear directly about the issues impacting them. It allows me to stand face- to-face with producers in their home regions and hear about the issues that are important to them. I normally get pretty frank and fearless advice and feedback which is just the way I like it. I always walk away more informed of what the on the ground issues are and I sincerely appreciate the chance to do it.
With beef and lamb prices currently strong and the wool market pushing record highs on this trip I was particularly keen to hear how SA producers were fairing and whether the good conditions were making a real difference behind the farm gate.
I took the opportunity of my visit to share with the more than 80 producers the NFF priorities for the year ahead.
It is beef and lamb producers just like those in South Australia who are benefiting from the recent trade agreements brokered with China, Japan and Korea. That’s why, I said, the NFF will continue to advocate for a committed, bi-partisan approach to pursuing greater market access for Australia’s agricultural exports.
Having recently lodged our per-budget submission – I briefly explained how and why the NFF is urging the Government to facilitate a tax and regulatory system that encourages not hinders farmers’ prosperity.
The NFF supports cuts to small business and company tax rates and is advocating for a simplifying of business clarification thresholds. We want to ensure, that while terms of trade are positive, farmers can literally make hay while the sun shines.
Telecommunications, roads, rail, energy - or power and workplace reform will also dominate NFF advocacy activities in 2017.
I discussed with the group my vision for a more united agriculture industry. The many and diverse sectors that make up Australia agriculture are well represented through industry groups just like Livestock SA. On issues of common interest though, I believes we put forward a stronger case as a united front. That’s where the Australian Farmers comes in. This was particularly important to me knowing that about a decade ago the NFF had a footprint in SA whereas now we do not. I’m of the firm view that whatever the issues are the best way to get a response and/or make a difference is to get in and help shape the outcome.
I discussed with those in attendance the intention of the NFF to transition to the brand of ‘Australian Farmers’ as a means of representing all of Australian agriculture and as a platform to spread the ‘good news’ about our nation’s food and fibre. I also shared my thoughts on flow state-based and national-advocacy can work better together for enhanced results.
A highlight of my Robe trip was a visit, with Livestock SA President Geoff Power, to ‘Brae’ the property of Bradley Nunan. The lambs yarded were in super condition and headed for market – the country was also looking great. It was very helpful to hear from Brad and also Geoff about their farm businesses and the day to day challenges they face.
Driving back to Adelaide I reflected on the resilience of farmers. After two years of record dry – a wet 2016, coupled with positive market conditions, have set most producers up for a prosperous 2017. I have every faith these producers will capitalise on the current good times.
Tony Mahar is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Farmers' Federation.