Grain Producers SA chairman Wade Dabinett said 2018 would have the organisation continue on much the same path in working towards a profitable grains industry.
He said GPSA would be working to anticipate the next challenges and place its investments in order to make the maximum difference and meet the demand of the future.
“While GPSA has worked on a multitude of issues in 2017, from grain storage, freight and logistics to increasing productivity, there is one issue in particular that has dominated advocacy efforts – mining on agricultural land,” he said.
Mr Dabinett said the organisation had some significant concerns in 2017 with the process that unfolded as part of the largest review into the laws governing mining in SA’s history.
He said GPSA had lodged a submission on behalf of the grain industry, while a number of members had developed their own submissions to the review.
“More than 55 per cent of the submissions received by the government came from landowners or farming representative bodies,” he said.
GPSA also had concerns with the state government’s move to lodge the Statutes Amendment (Leading Practice in Mining) Bill 2017 in parliament while consultation was still ongoing.
“At GPSA’s request, the bill was deferred until after the March state election in order to give politicians time to consider the views of both sides of the debate as well as the economic impact it could have,” he said.
“This issue creates difficulty for our members, there are many social and economic impacts on primary producers when mining moves in to their property. It needs time to get it right and to ensure farmers’ rights are protected.
“This is just one of many policy issues that GPSA will be working on in 2018.”
Mr Dabinett said there were another two “priority” areas GPSA had focused on for 2017-18.
This includes $100,000 in funding for a pilot program of a farm business strategic review, conducted by Rural Business Support.
“The review helps family businesses better understand their strategic position, analyse their financial status and identify opportunities to improve productivity and profitability,” he said.
“Our investment is the largest commitment made by GPSA to an individual project, demonstrating the importance we place on upskilling producers in this area. GPSA’s mission is to ensure a viable and sustainable grains industry and we believe financial literacy is a vital component to achieve this. We want to help our members to develop a better understanding of their financial and strategic position.”
Mr Dabinett said another area of focus was attracting skilled labour to the grains industry.
He said GPSA would be contributing $20,000 to Food and Fibre Education SA to deliver curriculum-linked activities that promote innovation and opportunities in the grain sector to SA school students.
“At present a career in the grains industry – both on-farm and off-farm – is not on many students’ radar and we need to be putting our case forward to ensure we can fill the positions we have available now and into the future,” he said.
Mr Dabinett said there had been a shift in the way agriculture lobbying was done.
“The way we develop policy has evolved and frequently the window of time to its development is so much smaller,” he said.
Despite that, he said there were still some core ideas.
“It can be easy to do the work that is popular, what we need to do is the work that is required for the future of our industry,” he said.
“Education, capacity building and work health and safety will not register highly when we survey members on pressing issues, but they are priorities and need addressing.”