Get political, young farmers told

Lauren Celenza and Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Young farmers are being urged to get on board to help tackle agriculture’s growing political issues.

Two years ago Victorian grain and livestock farmer Andrew Broad became the youngest president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, aged 33.

He believes agriculture has a bright future, but said young farmers needed to speak up and get on board when it came to political involvement or risk being left out of the decision making process.

Addressing the Innovation Generation conference last week, Mr Broad said young growers needed to understand that it wasn’t just productivity that affected their bottom line, but also government policy.

“Your industry is an export industry predominantly, your industry doesn’t stop at your farm gate and your industry needs you to play a proactive role within the whole of it, not just on your farm, ” he said.

“One of the things I see particularly in (this) generation… is a focus on production only… but our focus must be on our whole supply chain.

“Even if you are a great (export cattle) producer… at the moment you have had your livelihood cut off by poor policy.

“We’ve got an aging demographic of farmers; we’re going to see a significant transfer of land management in the next 10 to 15 years.

“This is a great opportunity. This then means it is your industry, so where are you going to take it — that’s the question.”

National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Matt Linnegar said he wanted to know how young people viewed farmer groups and how they could improve existing models to suit them.

“If (young farmers) are going to sit there and think “this whole world of politics bores me to tears and I’m not interested” that’s fine, but please don’t sit there and complain about an outcome or think it doesn’t affect you, ” he said.

“We deal with the national issues that affect a whole range of industries like the carbon tax, live export, foreign investment, supermarket price wars and the image of agriculture.”

WAFarmers young farmers management committee members Justin Fox and Adam Smith said agriculture’s next generations needed to speak up now.

“Many farming individuals, families and communities oppose the current national government and the policies that are made on, apparently, their behalf, ” Mr Fox said.

“Generation Y and surrounding generations expect results fast and exact, however, lobbying can be a slow and uneventful process and this may turn young people off the idea.”

Mr Smith said legislation and regulations were too often changed without enough consultation.

“Without WAFarmers it would have been almost impossible to organise rallies such as the live export counter rally at Parliament House, which voiced our opinions against the banning of live trade, ” he said.

“Some young farmers are too busy and think they don’t need to be part of these lobby groups and they think these groups don’t need them.

“These opinions need to change because both sides of the party need each other so that together farmers as a whole have a greater voice.”

Cale Beard, 23, who is from Meckering, has been a member of WAFarmers for the past three years, however, he has mixed views on whether to renew his membership.

“The politics and competitiveness between farm groups seems to be more of the issue, rather than having a real focus on the issues farmers face, ” he said.

“We need an industry body that can take our issues to the Government, however, I don’t believe we have enough power in government and our concerns are generally met too late.

“I joined WAFarmers at Muresk, because they came to talk to us and wanted us to put our views forward.

“(However) it is viewed that the average age of these groups tended to be older, and in my opinion their experience would over-ride ours and our thoughts may not be heard.”

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