Grower-driven advocacy to be key theme of 2018

Jan 04, 2018

Grain Producers SA’s focus is ‘grower-driven advocacy for a profitable grains industry’ and all of our work on behalf of growers is directed in this way.

GPSA is at an important juncture. Six years on from its establishment, we have a strong board with renewal and succession taking place. We have a well-resourced and highly skilled staff and are seeking to augment this with a suitably qualified and experienced CEO.

While it is important to reflect on the early successes of the organisation, they are history. We need a firm eye on the industry’s requirements over the next 10 to 20 years – and beyond. We need to be anticipating the next challenges we face and where our industry funds need to be invested now to make maximum difference and meet the demand of the future.

It can be too easy to do the work that is popular, what we need to do is the work that is required for the future of our industry. Education, capacity building and work health and safety will not register highly when we survey members on pressing issues, but they are priorities and need addressing. We need to get ahead of the game because if we don’t we will lose control of these issues.

 

2017 investments

In recent months, Grain Producers SA has invested funding into two priority areas that will believe will impact the industry’s future.

GPSA has recently provided $100,000 in funding for a pilot program of the Farm Business Strategic Review, originally developed by Rural Business Support, to be operated in South Australia. The review helps family businesses better understand their strategic position, analyse their financial status and identify opportunities to improve productivity and profitability.

Our investment is the largest commitment made by GPSA to an individual project, demonstrating the importance we place on upskilling producers in this area.

GPSA’s mission is to ensure a viable and sustainable grains industry and we believe financial literacy is a vital component to achieve this. We want to help our members to develop a better understanding of their financial and strategic position. This can then support timely decision-making, investment in new technology and systems which in turn will lead to increased profitability.

GPSA also recognises the importance in attracting skilled labour to the grains industry and the increasing problem this is becoming for many growers, if it is not already.

In response, GPSA is contributing $20,000 to Food and Fibre Education SA – an initiative that will to deliver curriculum-linked activities that promote innovation and opportunities in the grains sector to South Australian school students.

The initiative uses best practice teaching methodology to engage students in years 5 to 12 in agricultural science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

Our investment is important to inspire and attract skilled graduates, as well as point school students toward a career in the sector. At present, a career in the grains industry – both on-farm and off-farm – is not on many students’ radar and we need to be putting our case forward to ensure we can fill the positions we have available now and in future.

 

Policy direction

While GPSA has worked on a multitude of issues in 2017, from grain storage, freight and logistics to increasing productivity, there is one issue in particular that has dominated advocacy efforts – mining on agricultural land.

At various points during the year, GPSA has had some significant concerns with the process that has unfolded as part of the largest review of the laws governing mining in South Australia’s history.

At the end of March 2017, GPSA lodged its submission on behalf of the grain industry to the government’s call. A number of GPSA’s members developed their own submissions to the review, detailing their personal concerns towards the Mining Acts. Over 55 percent of the submissions received by the government came from landowners or farming representative bodies.

Since consultation finished in March 2017, progress was slow. GPSA was part of numerous meetings but there was little action until late 2017, when the Statutes Amendment (Leading Practice in Mining) Bill 2017 was lodged in State Parliament.

GPSA was extremely concerned about this because consultation sessions were still being held around the state on the contents of the bill, which meant that the views of members and other stakeholders could not have been adequately heard nor reflected in the bill.

At GPSA’s request, the bill was deferred until after the March 2018 State Election in order to give politicians time to consider the views of both sides of the debate as well as the economic impact it could have.

This issue creates difficulty for our members, there are many social and economic impacts on primary producers when mining moves in to their property. It needs time to get it right and to ensure farmers’ rights are protected.

This is just one of many policy issues that GPSA will be working on in 2018.

To quote National Farmers Federation President Fiona Simson, the future of advocacy is changing. It is no longer about a ‘bunch of blokes in tweed jackets rolling into town to meet and discuss policy’.

The way we develop policy has evolved and frequently the window of time to its development is so much smaller. There is often so little time for policy-makers to engage with industry and for industry to develop a well-researched and developed response.

Farmers’ daily demands are more fast-paced and so too are their expectations on outcomes. The is the current reality which GPSA must deal with and the landscape in which we must plan its future.

Details: Find out more about the Farm Business Strategic Review


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