Fighting for our farmers' future

Thursday, 6 November 2014


More than 300 farmers, agribusinesses and government representatives gathered in Canberra on Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 October to discuss the future of Australian agriculture. The NFF Congress provided the opportunity to hear from key speakers including the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, and the Opposition Leader, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP.

This edition of the NFF AGvocate will showcase the highlights of the Congress. Presentations, speeches and photos from Congress will continue to be uploaded to the website over the coming days – please check back for updates.

The NFF would like to thank its Congress sponsors: Principal Sponsor Coles, Technology & Innovation Partner Telstra, Major Sponsor Department of Agriculture, Keynote Sponsor McDonalds Australia, Session Sponsor & Exhibitors Prime Super and AGL, Coffee Hub Sponsors Suncorp Bank and Santos, Day Sponsors ACIAR and NAB Agribusiness.

We also wish to thank our Congress exhibitors: AgStewardship, Bureau of Meteorology, Ernst & Young, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, GrainGrowers, Grains Research & Development Corporation, Harvest Trail, Regional Wellbeing Survey and Rural Skills Australia.

Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP and Opposition Leader, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP address the NFF 2014 Congress


In his first official address as NFF’s newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer, Simon Talbot spoke about the exciting future for agriculture and seizing the opportunities ahead.

Speaking to Congress, Simon said Australia should not lose sight of emerging markets, most notably Indonesia. He said Indonesia’s middle class would swell to 65 million by 2020, offering farmers another avenue to export their high-quality food and fibre.

NFF President Brent Finlay supported the call, highlighting Australian farmers were on the verge of a ‘golden era’, provided they can capture a share of the rising export demand and prices in Asia.

While both Simon and Brent spoke of the huge opportunities ahead, they acknowledged that challenges still needed be overcome by the sector. Among these included reducing the regulatory burden on farmers, identifying ways to lift farm-gate prices and, more broadly, building a stronger brand for Australia’s food and fibre to the world.

Looking ahead: NFF President Brent Finlay


In welcome news for the sector, the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper was unveiled by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce MP on day one of Congress.

The Green Paper identifies nine policy principals, including increasing returns at farm-gate, building transport and communication infrastructure, promoting agriculture as an attractive career choice and mechanisms to grow rural communities.

Building on many of NFF’s policy priorities, the Green Paper promotes policies for fair competition, support for drought-affected farmers, greater access to labour, reform of coast shipping and the removal of unnecessary regulation in work health and safety laws.

In particular, water infrastructure was a key element of the Paper. Going forward, detailed business cases are required so that farmers who will be the end users of new infrastructure understand the price path of the water they will receive.

The key role for government will be to provide seed funding to develop these businesses cases and accelerate the environmental assessment and approvals that will be required.

The NFF will be providing government a clear response to the Green Paper and continuing to champion sound policies for the agriculture sector through development of the final White Paper.

Submissions to the Green Paper are open online until 12 December, 2014. For more, see our release here.

Is it all about better returns to farm-gate? Rural Woman of the Year Pip Job and Growth Farms CEO David Sackett.


The Green Paper announcement on day one of Congress inspired a day full of energy and interesting ideas about Australian agriculture, looking at where we are now and where we are headed.

Key messages that emerged from the day centred on access to capital, open dialogue with the non-farming community and the lifestyle that makes agriculture an attractive choice.

Thought-leaders David Sackett and Pip Job discussed the importance of better margins at farm-gate. Pip Job highlighted the need for balance in social, economic and environmental as well as astute business acumen.

Congress Principal Sponsor Coles spoke about the retailer’s role as a conduit between farmers and consumers and the importance of telling the story of farming in the 21st century. Keeping the conversation open between retailers and farmers was also seen as a key element of success.

Thinking creatively about how we can attract investment into infrastructure and keeping an open mind of foreign investment were highlighted later in the day.

A session on youth in agriculture noted the importance of succession planning and innovative business models to young farmers, both to engage them and being able to fund it.

Embracing change and looking at new ways to run a farm business is front of mind of many young farmers. For more on day one, read our release here.

Inspiring: Sam Collier of 'Australian Agriculture'


A unified voice for agriculture emerged as a core theme of day two at the NFF 2014 Congress. From a government’s perspective, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten MP spoke about bi-partisanship and how industry can inspire the vision that underpins government policy.

The release of the report into farm sector representation raised the prospect of a unified model to strengthen and streamline the voice of Australian farmers across the country. As part of this, a new website has been launched for farmers to read the findings and learn more about how they can engage in the process.

McDonald’s Australia CEO Andrew Gregory talked about agriculture in a consumer’s world. As the voice of consumers grow louder, retailers respond by sourcing product to meet their needs – bringing opportunities and challenges for Australian farmers.

Six key politicians from across the political spectrum debated the future of Australian agriculture and wider supply chain. They were challenged on whether their views aligned with the agriculture sectors vision, including the Blueprint for Australian Agriculture. They too, highlighted the importance of a unified message to shape government policy.

Industry experts re-ignited the debate on umbrella marketing (Brand Australia) of Australia’s produce overseas. Key findings from an Austrade report showed our products are well-regarded but not well differentiated. Importantly, one voice defining Brand Australia was seen as an essential component to future success.

Capital Hill to Congress (L-R): NFF CEO Simon Talbot, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, Mr Clive Palmer MP, Senator Richard Colbeck, Senator Bridget McKenzie, Senator Christine Milne, E&Y Partner Andrew Metcalfe AO, Sky News Political Editor David Speers, Senator David Leyonhjelm and NFF President Brent Finlay


The United Nations declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, giving us the opportunity to celebrate the enormous contributions these farmers make. 2014 also marks the 35th anniversary of the NFF, which was formed in 1979 as the united national voice for Australian farmers.

To honour both occasions, the NFF held a special evening at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra on Monday 20 October, 2014. The evening showcased the stories of several family farmers across Australia and paid tribute to the past Presidents of the NFF.

The NFF wishes to thank the Presidents and families who attended the evening. We greatly appreciate your contribution and support to Australia's agricultural sector now and into the future.

Congress celebrates 35 Years of NFF & Family Farming


The 2014 Regional Wellbeing Survey conducted by the University of Canberra is one of the largest studies of wellbeing across rural and regional Australia. Approximately, 8000 people completed the survey last year, providing valuable information for social planners. The Regional Wellbeing Survey is now live and will be open until 30 November, 2014.

You can complete the survey here

The NFF AGvocate
Issue 58

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