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Grains Innovation Tour connects policy makers with industry

Last week GrainGrowers hosted 25 policy professionals on the annual Grains Innovation Tour in Southern New South Wales.

The group included representatives from the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the National Farmers' Federation.

GrainGrowers CEO David McKeon said the tour focussed on connecting government decision-makers with the farmers, bulk handlers, processors, and agricultural researchers who are in the forefront of grains sector innovation, linked together to create a competitive grains industry.

“The objective of the tour was to provide the Canberra-based group with a showcase of the grain supply chain and to demonstrate the importance of innovation to our future success," Mr McKeon said.

A highlight of the two-day tour were visits to grain farms to speak to farmers, inspect crops and discuss modern farming operations, the machinery used and the issues growers face in producing profitable returns.

"Our thanks to current Australian Grain Farm Leaders Program participant, Rob Allen, and his father, Peter, and to Nuffield Scholar, Bruce Thompson, for enabling us to visit their farms, and talking to us candidly about their operations.

"Their talks gave participants an insight into the complex marketing decisions that farmers must make in order to get the best returns from their investment in inputs such as machinery, freight, and labour.

"Limitations with telecommunications and the high cost of moving grain from farm to port each year were key topics discussed between the farmers and policy-makers."

GRDC Northern Panel Chair, John Minogue kicked off discussion on the importance of the research, development and extension arm of the industry, addressing the group over dinner about the research landscape and current GRDC priorities.

"John gave participants an insight into the importance of growers and researchers working closely together to set the priorities for R,D & E in order to get the best returns we can for the industry from the significant levy and government investment each year," said Mr McKeon.

Participants also visited FarmLink Research Ltd's trial site in Temora, New South Wales where they received an overview of current projects and viewed field trials of wheat, canola, lentils and faba beans.

"Farmlink is a model example of the important role Farming Systems Groups play throughout the grains industry, in ground truthing research and translating it into practical innovation on farm which brings improved returns for growers.

"This work is particularly important in a deteriorating season such as is being experienced this year in southern NSW where the rainfall has been below average and numerous frosts have impacted crop development. How farmers can best plan their rotations, provide the inputs which different crops need and take advantage of every millimetre of rainfall is supported by the trial work going on at Farmlink.

“Our thanks to CEO, Cindy Cassidy who, as both a farmer herself and in her role as Farmlink CEO, was inspiring in her enthusiasm for the industry,” Mr McKeon said.

The group also gained an insight into the range of research projects under way at the Functional Grain Centre and Graham Centre for agricultural research, Wagga Wagga.

"The Centre emphasises the importance of its partnership with industry to identify and bring about opportunities to improve the profitability and sustainability of grain through, for example, looking at new uses for canola meal.

"We are grateful to Partnerships and Engagement Manager, Toni Nugent, and Associate Prof. Dan Waters, for their overview of the Graham Centre's operations and Dr Sergio Moroni (below) and staff for the tour of canola trials both above and below the ground."

The group also inspected grain receival facilities, travelling to GrainCrop's Temora bunker facilities and rail hub together with the grains quality testing laboratory.

"We learnt about the importance of work going on to tackle freight costs by improving turnaround times at receival sites for quicker unloading of grain. With the sheer scale of the freight task for a region like Temora, visitors were impressed with the need for rail to become more competitive."

In the evening, they were addressed by John Stuart, GrainCorp's Quality Services Manager - Grain and Oil Seeds who presented an interesting talk on the journey from "barley to beer", including tips for matching beer with different styles of food.

Participants also examined the processing sector of the industry, visiting the Riverina Oils and Bioenergy Facility (ROBE) where they learnt about the Australian canola crushing industry and the final product marketing, targeting domestic and niche export markets.

"At the same time we gained an insight into the policy settings important for the Australian oilseed industry and crushing sector in order for growers to receive maximum returns for their crops."

The tour was part of GrainGrowers' ongoing work in improving the connectivity between government decision-making processes and the grains sector.

GrainGrowers is an independent and technically resourced, grain farmer representative organisation with more than 17,000 members across Australia. GrainGrowers’ goal is a more efficient, sustainable and profitable grain production sector that benefits all Australia grain farmers and the wider grains industry.

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