The new head of one of WA’s peak farm lobby groups plans to push for agriculture to be given its dues for addressing climate change instead of being seen as “the bad guy”. John Hassell, who farms at Pingelly and Wialki, was recently elected president of WAFarmers, replacing Rhys Turton. Mr Hassell also outlined that after Labor’s landslide State election win and its increase in power, it was important for advocacy groups to have a strong voice on behalf of rural and regional WA. He is no stranger to agripolitics. Mr Hassell, pictured, spent nine years on the board of WA grain handler CBH, stood as the Nationals candidate for the Federal seat of O’Connor in 2016 and 2019, sat on various national wool lobby groups and held general counsel and transport positions at WAFarmers. He said his organisation had identified six platforms to focus its rural advocacy efforts on, including water, rail, road, communications, carbon and community. Mr Hassell said the National Farmers’ Federation had an aspiration for zero net emissions by 2050 but there was little understanding of what that involved or the pathway to achieve that goal. “There’s an economy-wide aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2050 but we need to understand what does that mean for agriculture,” he said. “Farmers are already doing their part. We use cleaner-burning engines in our machinery, doing no-till cropping (not ploughing soil), and planting trees. The millions of hectares of crops WA farmers plant each year store carbon in the soil. There are a multitude of things farmers are already doing that they don’t get credit for and we want agriculture to be given its dues rather than being seen as the bad guy.” Mr Hassell said the industry body needed to increase its community engagement. “We need to increase the understanding that many things seen as country issues affect the city as well,” said. “For example, water access; if we can build a plan for the future that helps farmers access water, that takes pressure off the city water supply. It’s a win-win rather than just us and them. “We don’t want to lose our small towns so we need to appeal to the Government from a community perspective as well as farming.” A challenge for all rural advocacy groups had been encouraging membership. Mr Hassell hoped he could turn this trend around by making sure WAFarmers was relevant, plus making engagement faster and easier. One example was the recent introduction of online voting. Mr Hassell also confirmed he had no plans to revise previous attempts to merge with the Pastoralists & Graziers Association to form a single WA voice. “WAFarmers has made numerous overtures to PGA over time and PGA has been absolutely against this. I don’t think we will waste any more time on that,” he said.