Strategic policy void filled by neigh-sayers

View From the Paddock: Strategic policy void


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Bryce Camm, Camm Agricultural Group, Wonga Plains Feedlot.

Bryce Camm, Camm Agricultural Group, Wonga Plains Feedlot.

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Is it so gloomy in Australian agriculture that we have forgotten our good news narrative?

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Perusing Twitter, your rural paper or even an urban newspaper, it seems agricultural issues aren't hard to find. Drought, vegan activism, water, industry restructures, trade wars and recession are given plenty of airtime and column inches. It finds me asking, is it so gloomy in Australian agriculture that we have forgotten our good news narrative?

I pose that we have blindly allowed our own narrative to be hijacked by those who would see our destruction and potentially worse still, those who proclaim to be our modern Messiah, yet are really driven to use our cause for their own political promotion.

I am a glass half full, free marketer person, who believes free enterprise drives the greatest benefits to our communities. I am also a realist, who appreciates that in a modern world the market is imperfect and for a risk-averse pension-heavy investment community, funding the first step in grand ambitions is often a step too far.

Government plays a critical role in keeping our people safe and secure and providing the environment for private enterprise to undertake the heavy lifting. Sometimes that involves taking the brave first step to send a signal. Public policy and infrastructure are two such levers. Our dominant sectors of finance, mining or education are clear examples, where government has fostered growth and development and strength.

Currently the strategic policy void for Australian ag is being filled by the neigh-sayers and governments paying lip service.

Consuming the headlines on delivering appropriate trespass laws is fine but it is uninspiring to the producer who wants to try a new crop, or expand their business. A summit talkfest and $100M per year for a drought fund is a drop in an inland ocean we don't have. For perspective it is one-sixth the annual spend of Australian aid development to PNG.

There is talking of building dams, but not an inch of earth moved. I fear I may be grey before the inland rail delivers any Yorke Peninsula barley to the Darling Downs. The Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, having taken four years to approve a spend of just $1.2b, more appropriately stands for "Not An Immediate Fund".

Meanwhile our own sector is busy in a discussion on which chairs should remain on the upper deck of the HMAS Powerstruggle or how we placate the social do-gooders when their next (insert hyper emotional/questionable outcome planet saving cause here) comes around.

We need to stop the next beat-up where our own people turn on each other to feed an alternate agenda casting stones on water, climate change or animal welfare all while the Four Corners camera rolls.

Farmers are too kind to ask for more but we have given a great deal and it's time for the ledger to be squared. Announce the next dam to be built and get dozers ready for an October kick-off. Then deliver a free trade agreement with the EU that spawns a flurry of investment, ready to capture market opportunity. I challenge us to contemplate the public policy that will foster the next agricultural revolution.

Our current focus seems too focused on solving the problems of now rather than developing the opportunities of next. It's a shame we cannot devote more of those column inches or airtime to those who are delivering on the above. Accordingly, I call on all of us in industry to be the advocates our great sector needs to ram home the message that we are in a dynamic industry with a bright future.

- Bryce Camm, Camm Agricultural Group, Wonga Plains feedlot

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