Call for champions of agriculture

Kate PollardCountryman
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Passionate Kukerin farmer Mary Nenke is on a crusade and needs help from community members.

Well known for her family run export business, Cambinata Yabbies, Mrs Nenke wants Australians concerned about the future of farming to become champions and raise awareness by joining a social media campaign, Alarming Farming.

With help from Perth-based IT professional Nick Gale, who is also concerned about food security, the duo created a facebook page.

Mrs Nenke said Australian farmers and pastoralists have stewardship over 60 per cent of the country but debt was forcing many to sell, often to overseas interests.

She said the call for champions was to everyone along the supply chain, including farmers and consumers.

"The idea is each champion finds more champions to get agriculture at the top of conversation around Australia," Mrs Nenke said.

"It's about connecting. It isn't about sympathy for poor farmers. It's about poor agriculture if we lose our farmers."

In the campaign's first week, more than 225 people joined the group online and another 100 formally signed up on paper to pledge their support.

With a State and Federal election around the corner, Mrs Nenke has gathered 15 suggestions to stimulate debate and put agriculture back on the top of the political menu.

"Government needs to realise and recognise that farmers are essential service providers and without food we die," she said.

Other suggestions include introducing multi-peril crop insurance, low interest rates for farm inputs, an inquiry into input costs and investment to help increase farm profitability.

·To join the campaign, go to www.facebook.

com/groups/AlarmingFarming

Mary's fast facts *

·Commercial farm numbers shrunk from 200,000 in the 1970s to 111,326 in 2000

·WA farm debt has increased by 9.1 per cent since 1993

·In 2009, total rural debt was $62.2 billion

·Agriculture contributes $43 billion to the economy

·The industry employs 370,000 people

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