Tuesday 9 August 2011
Farmers determine the future of FAR
Eligible farmers are currently voting in the Foundation for Arable Research's (FAR's) fourth referendum to determine if
the Foundation will continue to invest levy payers' funds to deliver benefits to farmers, reports Nick Pyke, Chief
Executive of FAR.
FAR's recent winter road-show targeted arable farming communities nationwide and was attended by approximately 20% of
the country's growers, along with a number of industry personnel; a very pleasing response says Nick Pyke, FAR's Chief
Executive. "Those farmers in attendance were very supportive of FAR and were keen to discuss areas of research which
were of particular importance to them. For example, innovation, looking at developing new food/feed products was high on
the agenda along with research around regulation, particularly around nitrogen inputs and greenhouse gas emissions, a
somewhat different approach to what FAR was perhaps taking six years ago when the last referendum took place.
"Talking with growers face to face is always interesting. It allows us to hear first-hand the views of those investing
in the research and extension FAR undertakes. As to be expected, a number of areas of concern to farmers were discussed
and FAR will obviously address these, however the general consensus was that we are doing a reasonable job. Generally
farmers could see it wasn't just about increasing productivity from research, but further research was needed to ensure
farmers maintained the 'right to farm'. FAR has made a real effort to address issues around providing information around
legislation and has made certain that the information farmers require has been disseminated to them to ensure they can
The development of food and feed products will also be critical to the future success of the arable industry.
"In the last five years there has been a huge increase in the use of grain by the dairy industry and this is likely to
increase. The challenge for the arable industry is to identify the quality attributes the dairy industry needs; FAR is
involved in a number of joint dairy/arable workshops to try and ascertain what these needs are. The arable industry
needs to ensure it can produce these specific requirements in order to maximise the value. Aquaculture may also deliver
opportunities to provide higher value specific quality grains or oilseeds in the future. We must also address the needs
of the pork industry who are interested in grains and cultivars with desired ME. These feed opportunities need to be
developed to deliver value to our farmers."
The energy and protein from grains will become increasingly important to feed the growing population of the world. As an
industry, we need to produce higher value plant based protein for use in snack foods and energy drinks and to provide
energy ingredients in high value convenience foods. The value needs to come back to the grower, possibly through greater
ownership of the value chain; FAR is currently working on two projects in this area."
FAR Chairman Stuart Wright explained "I hope we all consider our FAR levy to be an investment in our businesses, not a
cost. FAR is continually appraising the needs of farmers and aims to maintain the delivery of just-in-time information
to allow farmers to progress. We need farmers to be supportive of FAR in this vote. Upon the result of a clear mandate
for FAR's continuation, we need to ensure levy payers are engaged in FAR's activities, and as a result can implement new
practices which will add value to their farming business."
There will be some big challenges facing farmers in the next ten years, Pyke says. "FAR aims to invest in the research
and extension to ensure farmers can meet these challenges. This research will be very different to past research as
technology, consumer demands, environmental demands, economic viability and the integration of farm systems evolve. We
need to understand and capture as much value as possible from the value chain to ensure the on-going viability of the
farm business," Pyke concluded.
Farmers have until 2 September 2011 to vote and all those farmers that have registered will have received voting papers.
This referendum is different from the last vote. Maize growers and arable growers will have the opportunity to vote on
the maize and arable levy orders, however this referendum will also give cereal silage growers the opportunity to vote
on a separate levy order for cereal silage. If this new levy is passed it will be set at a rate of $10.00 (GST
exclusive) per hectare harvested. All cereal silage growers will be investing in and receiving the benefits from FAR
funded research. Currently only grain and seed growers receive information from FAR. FAR communicates new information to
farmers with regular updates by mail, timely emails, website, media, at field days, conferences and discussion groups.
"Farmers regularly have the opportunity to input into FAR activities and to ensure the investments in research and
extension are delivering benefits. However, if they don't vote and FAR doesn't get an adequate level of support, FAR
will stop operating and farmer investment in research will cease. In the long term, government investment in research
will also reduce, as we have already seen, thus the long term future for the arable industry could be grim," Pyke said.