Challenge and opportunity in ag sector

Challenge and opportunity in ag sector

AgForce general president Georgie Somerset, deputy director general for agriculture and DAF Bernadette Ditchfield and CQ regional manager Sara Cue.

By Matthew Pearce

Succession planning, labor challenges and biosecurity were just some of the issues in the spotlight at this week’s AgForce Key Industry Forum.

The industry event, held at the Rockhampton Leagues Club on Wednesday, March 22, was the culmination of three days of board, committee and regional meetings in the Cattle Capital.

AgForce Qld is the peak organization representing Queensland’s rural producers, with members from the cattle, grain, cane, sheep and wool industries.

AgForce general president Georgie Somerset said the annual meeting allowed Agforce members and central Queensland producers to discuss opportunities and the challenges facing their industry.

Topics under discussion include the conservation market, the carbon market and Energy Skills Queensland, as well as cattle advocacy.

“It’s about ensuring that our members are able to manage their land in a way that allows them to run their business sustainably … that means managing the landscape, having a profitable business and to see their families,” she said.

AgForce Central Queensland president John Baker said there were three major issues affecting local growers.

“The beef industry is going through a downturn in prices, although they’re still pretty strong … It’s on the back of supply, there’s a lot more cattle coming to market now than there’s been in a while,” he said. said.

“Labour is also a bit of a problem, not just for us in the agricultural industry, but all across the community.

“And then there are competing interests from renewable energy and mines that encroach on some of our farming land.”

Ms Somerset said labor issues also affected the processing sector, including meat processing and grain harvesting.

“AgForce is working with the National Farmers Federation to bring in more migrant labor from the Pacific Islands and the state government has also been talking to Papua New Guinea,” she said.

“There’s also a lot happening in the ag education space, including working with high school students and even elementary school kids to encourage them to enter the industry.”

Succession planning was high on the agenda, with the Young Producers Council discussing how young people can get finance to buy their own block of land.

While FMD in Indonesia is a “major concern” for growers, Mr Baker said he was confident in Australia’s biosecurity measures.

“It’s a little bit closer than it used to be, but it doesn’t really increase the risk exponentially,” he said.

“Australia has done a lot of work with Indonesia to try to control it there and we’re pretty confident it will stay where it is and not come into the country.”

Mr Baker said Lumpy skin disease was probably a bigger concern than FMD as it was carried by insects rather than humans.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the annual AgForce meeting came at a time of great opportunity for the industry – but that opportunity depended on succession planning and young people entering the industry.

“This industry continues to and always will rely on good people, young families staying on the land, staying in community, strengthening those communities and investing in the game of agriculture,” he said.

“In the last few days we have talked a lot about automation, about AI and about technology.

“But while these innovations create opportunities, people will always be at the center of this industry.”

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