Bob Hall is a well-known agricultural consultant based in Darkan, Western Australia.
Back in the sixties Bob challenged us all about the way we managed our merino sheep.
There was nothing theoretical about Bob’s challenges. They were based on sound, practical and proven experience gained through working with his clients.
Bob offered solutions stretching from sheep yard and shearing shed design, to management practices designed to improve the efficiency and profitability of growing merino wool, which are still, maybe even more, relevant today.
Bob now manages a broad portfolio of consultancy covering all aspects of farm management in the wheat sheep belt of Western Australia. Here he presents his views on a hot topic of the day, Multi Peril Crop Insurance.
There is a story of Bono of at a U2 charity concert, must be over ten years ago now, quietened the crowd, raised his hands above his head and clapped his hand together once. Three seconds later he did it again, and then again and again every three seconds. The, crowd, I think it was in the Albert Hall was quiet. Very gently he spoke and said, ‘Every time I clap my hands together, every three seconds, a child dies in Africa’. Someone in the audience shouted ,’Well stop f*&$#@ng clapping then.’ The crowed booed. The money raised went to help the children in Africa yet to this day they still die of starvation.
There is nothing I can add to the disaster that is the drought in Queensland and Northern New South Wales, except to say as a nation we have always been able to find millions of dollars to help people in other countries to survive and recover from natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis and as a nation we have been proud to help.
Now we have a disaster as bad or worse than any we have helped in other countries going on right now in the north of our own country and it seems we cannot come to our own aid. I ask the question why and who gives a damn about a deficit or a surplus budget when the heart of our northern agriculture is suffering unimaginable hardship? It is a situation that could be substantially ameliorated, made unimaginably better even fixed by spending money, government money, our money.
Irrespective of one bank agreeing not to foreclose and threats being made to name and shame, and high profile media people giving their support to the beleaguered landowners, the drought remains, stock continue to die. The Intellectual property of ‘Agriculture Australia’ is substantially in the genetics of the stock we have bred over many years. That gene bank is among the best in the world, it is priceless and will take years to replace.
One of the great shames of the unnecessary ‘selling off’ of the Australian merino flock for meat, is that some of the best wool producing genetics in the world finished up as Ugg boots, sheepskin coats and on the barbecues and in the cooking pots around the world.
The task before us now is to feed the stock that remain, we have and stop the death from starvation of Australia’s greatest asset, the gene pool of Australia’s national beef herd that has taken generations to build and which is in the process of being unnecessarily lost for all time.
During the week I had this web address sent to me.
If you haven’t seen it, do so now, before you read what follows.
Why has this government inquiry never (as far as I know) been published and discussed as a matter of national importance? Because what it is really saying is the Australian processed food industry in Australia is buggered, it’s just a matter of time. If ever Australia becomes reliant on imported food then we shall have lost what control we still have over our resource rich country and we shall be at the beck and call of new masters. Continue reading “The Future of the Australian processed food sector”
I have the time and I have the intense interest in food trade and objective to see Australian agriculture, once again, world competitive.
We really are a small player in world agriculture. We grow just 5% of the world’s crop. We jump up the ladder as a trader where we come in at between 12 and 15 in world rankings. That’s why the big boys want to play here. If you live 200km from the port it’s costing you between $60 and $75 a tonne to get you grain to port.
I know we are a world leader in the export of beef but I’m looking for a volunteer to tell the full story. From what I am told we could do so much better both domestically and for export.
One of the reasons we don’t get a lot of international news is because we are obsessed it seems to me, with domestic politics and in agriculture with domestic agricultural politics. It is hard to imagine an industry with so many organisations, committees, Peak Bodies, and people who claim to speak for one particular group or another, gossipers and rumour mongers. Yet in spite of that, we are deeply dependent on the export markets for our commodity products, cereals, meat and wool and to a lesser extent on perishable goods, fresh fruit and vegetables. Quite fascinating that WA is exporting fruit and veg to Bali, maybe it reduces the Bali Belly? Continue reading “Q. How unlevel is the ‘playing’ field? A. It’s a hill.”
“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
Photo Fairfax Media.
“Maybe stop talking about issues like daylight saving and the like and concentrate on real farm issues,”
“That would help government produce real results for the farm sector.”
“Maybe one farm organisation would help.”
Colin Barnett. Premier of Western Australia April 2013
Dale Park, President of the Western Australian Farmer’s Federation (WAFF or WA Farmers) replied:
I think that is true, there is a lot of people out there who just see this fighting between WA Farmers and the PGA as totally counterproductive,” he said.
“And I am one of them.”
Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) president at the time, Rob Gillam said he was surprised by the Premier’s comments. (Tony Seabrook is now President of the PGA.)
“It was a bit unusual, but I am not sure why he went where he went to be honest,” Mr Gillam said.
“We (PGA) were pretty happy with the achievements in agriculture by the Barnett-led government in the first term and we are looking forward to the changes in the second term.
“There are a couple of areas in which we are not happy, but that’s life.”
Mr Gillam said he saw PGA and WA Farmers in a similar light to the Liberal-National parties in State Government, but stopped short of calling it an alliance.
Mr Park also said he was surprised by Mr Barnett’s lack of understanding of the issues farmers were facing in the Eastern Wheatbelt during his two-day trip last week.
“Everybody knows the problems – getting finance, the high dollar and the cost-price squeeze – but what we are really short on is solutions,” Mr Park said.
“But what surprises me is that he (Barnett) was unaware of that (of the issues facing farmers).”
When asked if it was a blight on former Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman for not keeping the Premier properly informed on the issues, Mr Park said it was.
“Every time we tried to talk to Mr Redman about this he would say you are talking the industry down,” Mr Park said.
For the full story and even ‘more’ comments from the Premier go to
The mighty who operate with total impunity – a law unto themselves.
Would Mr Barnett have been as blunt in public to Richard Goyder, Wesgarmers CEO and Ian McLeod CEO of Coles about the anguish they have caused in the dairy industry with their dollar a litre take it or leave it bludgeoning? No, he wouldn’t dare. But he gets away with arrogance, rudeness and denigration in public to farmer organisations because he knows he can.
Colin Barnett was sending a big message to the PGA and WA Farmers in being so sarcastic, of concern is judging by the reaction there was no one at home in either WA Farmers or the PGA listening or if there was they didn’t understand. We all know Barnett’s sarcasm about the curtains fading is to do with the claims that milk production would go down and the kids wouldn’t go to sleep all as the result of daylight saving.
If that is the best the Premier can do when talking agriculture, his memory is convenient and it brings into sharp focus the lack of real communication between the Premier and the leaders of the PGA and WA Farmers.
Dale Parke’s comment also tells a sad tale of the poor working relationship between himself and the Minister for agriculture at the time, Terry Redman. Mr Redman obviously had his own agenda and attached no importance to the views of the President of WA Farmers.
There are some really difficult challenges around agriculture at the moment, of immediate concern and not the least being the diabolical condition of our country infrastructure, road and rail. So it was a typical Barnett ‘country hick’ comment designed to denigrate and take our mind off other matters.
An old and effective trick to use a bit of personal denigration in a not too subtle way to change the debate. Twelve months later the road and rail debate has gone nowhere. Probably deteriorated as the Shires have run out of money to maintain roads to carry trucks with payloads far beyond the design criteria of what in many cases are gravel roads built 50 to 100 hundred years ago.
Trouble was the Premiers sarcasm and comments were like water off a ducks back. Dale Park as good as agreed and said he couldn’t get through to his Minister Terry Redman when he needed to and Rob Gillam dismissed the Premier with a metaphorical dismissive wave of the hand.
Dale Park, when he refers to what he sees as a lack of understanding by the Premier of the problems of the eastern wheatbelt as they were so graphically portrayed at what I call ‘The Meeting of a Thousand Souls’ that was held in Merriden over twelve months ago, should remind the Premier that at that time, shortly after the meeting and without his Minister for Agriculture, Mr Barnett gave what I took to be a commitment that he personally would better educate himself with regard to not only the problems of the eastern wheatbelt but of all agricultural regions. He gave the impression he understood the debt and the problems it was causing to the community from farmers to the business people and to the working families.
He also gave the distinct impression he would take a personal interest in the situation. Ken Baston, the new Liberal Minister for Agriculture visited another part of the wheatbelt and virtually repeated the Premier’s commitments.
The financial aid that was promised at that time has just become available. It beggars belief that it has taken so long for the Commonwealth and the State to sort the scheme out. Best part of 18 months to develop the terms and conditions. Then again it is not surprising because Machiavelli is alive and well in the halls of power. I gather there has only been one successful applicant. Was it planned that way? Between the Department of Agriculture economists and the consultancy groups they seem to work so closely with now, it would be difficult, given the number of applications approved, to believe the conditions were drawn up to help as many as possible.
It is a sad reflection on the Minister and the bureaucracy, presumably the Dept of Agriculture and Food, if the conditions of the financing are not designed to help those most in need.
Rumours abound that both the PGA and WA Farmers have seen better financial times. Membership is low. Patronage and sponsorship is becoming more difficult.
The stories of orange lifeboats moving around Perth water in the middle of the night have not been confirmed by either organisation. Neither have the rumors been confirmed that offers have been made on two substantial houseboats.
It’s time for Change
Now is the right time for a change? It’s time both the P&G and WA Farmers, with their heads held high for they have toiled for agriculture and done a job few of us would take on, to give the job away.
It is time for them to take the same advice that Cromwell gave to the Rump government. ‘In the name of God go!’ and then we should add the words ‘And thank you for all you have done over the years.‘
If there is one topic that occupies the minds of farmers and those on the land more than the weather, or the price of wheat or wool or sheep or cattle – it is the future. Is there a future in agriculture for our children and grandchildren? If there is, what kind of future will it be?
Introduction – The Present – Where we Are.
There are statistics that show our agricultural productivity in Australia is declining not increasing. There are statistics that show increases in productivity are directly tied to investment in Research and Development. As a nation we are reducing our investment in research and development.
As we shall see later, there is evidence that bigger is not always better.
It is a worry that it was recently announced by Rabobank, one of the biggest agricultural banks in the world, that Australia is now the most expensive place in the world to grow wheat. It costs twice as much to milk a cow in Australia compared to the United States. Yet we compete in world markets with the United States for both dairy and wheat.
No grain grower will surprised to learn that in Australia it takes 16 trains to haul 60,000 tonnes of wheat to port, and in Canada it takes just six.
It is with almost regular monotony that we learn of yet another food processor closing down in Australia and moving overseas. It’s cheaper we are told to source the food overseas, process it there and the export the finished product to Australia, than it is to grow the food it and process it in this country.
Unless the world food supply changes dramatically, one way or another, Australia will increasingly rely on imported food. We are constantly bombarded, by politicians and this new breed of city-based agri-entrepreneurs with the proposition that Australia, can be the ‘Food Bowl of Asia’. What nonsense. We already import more processed food than we export.
What we export has very little if any value adding done to it. Boats full of grain and meat, raw wool, live sheep and cattle. It’s cheaper to import cakes and biscuits from Holland than it is to make them in Australia – why is that? We have imported bread dough from Ireland to be baked in Australia. Neither Holland or Ireland could be classified as a Developing Country.
We should not delude ourselves that the only food we import comes from countries with ‘cheap’ labour and costs. We have used that excuse once too often.
Our major retailers control over 80% of our food business. They have the ability to scour the world for the cheapest food they can buy. They do not care if it is cheaper than what is grown in Australia. If they do buy Australian then they drive the price down to the Australian producer to same price as they can buy it overseas. They have to protect their market share and profit.
On May 29 in the Farm Weekly the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, gave his views on the Muntadgin Farming Alliance and expressed some sympathy and empathy with the group and with farming in the eastern wheatbelt.
As a direct result of that interview, Ken Wilson, in the June 5 edition of the Farm Weekly, in the middle of seeding for many, put a series of questions to Nationals Member for Central Wheatbelt, Mia Davies, and Agriculture and Food Minister for Western Australia, Ken Baston.
At the Global Farmer, we believed the questions put to Ken Baston and Mia Davies by Ken Wilson deserved another outing, away from the rough and tumble of getting the crop in the ground. The Farm Weekly agreed so here they are. So now you can give these serious conversations some considered thought.
They are important questions. You make up your own mind on the quality, on the depth of the answers. Can we look forward to new future attacking old fundamental faults or just the same old parcel in different paper and a bit more tinsel, a few more balloons and a bigger whistle?
This time there are no time or space constraints. Read what Ken Baston and Mia Davies have to say and then have your say. Here are the questions:
Continue reading “The Future of Farming is in their Hands – Is it Safe?”