Communication vital to win hearts, minds

May 30, 2024 | Column

There has never been a more important time for all involved in primary industries to unite in sharing our passions and our challenges and to be telling our stories loudly and proudly.

I write this because I was recently in Canberra for the National Farmers’ Federation Members Council.

This coincided with Federal Budget week, which was a challenging one for our industry, to say the least.

That week, the federal government committed to banning live sheep exports within four years before unsuccessfully attempting to levy primary producers to help fund the cost of biosecurity surveillance and monitoring.

These actions, among others, and the way these policy measures were developed and prosecuted have left many primary producers feeling that they are not being heard, and that their issues and concerns don’t matter.

Livestock SA and Grain Producers SA have both recently issued strong statements of rebuke against the live sheep exports decision – a strong example of cross-commodity unification in the face of poor policy.

Our needs and concerns are not being well understood in Canberra, nor it seems do many of our city and urban residents fully appreciate the complexity and delicate balance that primary producers have to deal with every day, of every week, of every year.

We can’t assume that because people eat, they know how or where their food is produced.

We can’t assume that politics is all about addressing the key issues of the day.

We can’t take for granted that policy will address our challenges because we assumed those drafting said policy understood what we need.

In SA, we are fortunate to have a very constructive and productive relationship with government. But again, we cannot take this for granted.

We have worked hard as a sector to align our industry plans with the government’s State Economic Statement.

The Premier regularly speaks to the importance of the key themes in this for the State being smart, sustainable and inclusive.

Other industries such as defence, space technologies, renewable technology and mining are regularly spruiked for their future alignment with those three themes.

What we don’t hear a lot about is the fact that primary production is already a smart, sustainable and inclusive industry.

Have we become so good at what we do that we are being taken for granted?

We are well on our way to delivering a $20 billion contribution to the SA economy.

However, this won’t be realised if regional considerations are not prioritised in infra- structure and service investments.

We need to continue to advocate for good policy that considers our industries’ needs as a sector.

That is why the proposed State of the Industry Report, a project between PPSA, PIRSA, the SA Wine Industry Association and Food SA, is so important.

We can all use the information captured in this report to communicate more effectively with government stakeholders and the general public about the significant opportunities that we can capture for the state.

It will also help us to formulate a strategy that builds on the significant history of innovation and economic delivery by our industries – industries that are critical to SA’s economy today and the key to a sustainable, energy-resilient and landscape-nurturing vibrant economy that looks after all South Australians for the future.

This column was written by PPSA Chair Professor Simon Maddocks and originally appeared in the 30 May 2024 edition of Stock Journal.

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