Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, addressed the opening dinner of the GrainGrowers’ Grains Innovation Tour in Wagga Wagga on Monday night, discussing the importance of improving freight infrastructure for the development of major industries such as grains in his local Riverina electorate.
GrainGrowers’ CEO David McKeon, gave participants in this year’s tour an overview of the industry, stressing that the important grain growing region was on a knife-edge with rainfall urgently needed in the next month to give grain farmers any hope of a good crop.
He said the tour this year provided a valuable opportunity for participants to see first-hand some of the current seasonal challenges in southern NSW and the impact on farmers’ businesses this year and into the future. However, although less than average, the seasonal conditions in the Riverina region are better than much of northern NSW and Queensland.
The annual Grains Innovation Tour this year travelled through southern NSW, connecting government decision-makers with all aspects of the grains supply chain from paddock to plate, and provided a valuable opportunity for participants to talk to farmers, bulk handlers, processors and agricultural researchers about the issues involved in creating a competitive grains industry, particularly in times of extreme climate variability such as drought.
This year, 25 policy professionals attended the tour from the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and the National Farmers’ Federation.
Mr McKeon said the objective of the tour was to provide the opportunity for the Canberra-based group to see first hand the dynamic and progressive Australian grains industry and talk to the people involved who work in the industry every day.
“Participants have found that even though the region is suffering a poor season, innovation is advancing our productions system every year and farmers have a number of risk management arrangements in place in order to ensure their businesses prosper with the return to good seasons in future years,” he said.
In a highlight of the tour, the group visited local farms to discuss modern farming operations, the machinery used and the issues growers face in producing profitable returns.
“While Government policy formulated in Canberra affects farmers in the bush every day, it’s not often that conversations occur in the paddock between farmers and policy-makers. Local farmers, providing an insight into their farming operations, the challenges they face and the opportunities they see, are invaluable for evidence-based decision-making,” Mr McKeon said.
Participants also visited the Functional Grain Centre and Graham Centre for agricultural research, at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga (BELOW LEFT) and the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ research trial work (BELOW RIGHT). A tour of the Riverina Oils and Bioenergy Facility (ROBE) gave participants an insight into the Australian canola industry and the marketing of canola for domestic and niche export markets. A barley to beer presentation and the inspirational story of Voyager Craft Malt highlighted the versatility of Australian barley.
“The tour has given participants an insight into the policy settings around innovation, freight and market access needed for the Australian grains industry and processing sector to thrive in order for growers to receive maximum returns for their crops,” said Mr McKeon.
The tour is part of GrainGrowers’ ongoing work in improving the connectivity between government decision-making processes and the grains sector.
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