Does ag have its eye on the prize?

Does ag have it’s eye on the prize?

Opinion
Apart from our common production of food and fibre, industry leader Robbie Sefton, says farming is different things to different people.

Apart from our common production of food and fibre, industry leader Robbie Sefton, says farming is different things to different people.

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Apart from our common production of food and fibre, industry leader Robbie Sefton says farming is different things to different people.

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How are we going? 

Sometimes we need to sit back and take stock. That applies to our own lives and businesses, and to our agriculture sector as a whole. 

This is also easier said than done, as I am only too aware. There are always things that must be done before we take a break — and while we do those things, there goes the day/week/year.

It has been five years since I had the privilege of co-authoring the Blueprint for Australian Agriculture 2013-2020.

The Blueprint initiative was led by the National Farmers’ Federation, with key support from Westpac, Woolworths, Syngenta, Bayer and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), and support in varying degrees from a constellation of other government agencies and private organisations.

When the Blueprint was released, 2020 seemed so distant it was the stuff of science fiction. Suddenly, it is 18 months away.

The document is online for all to see, and to make their own assessments on whether the ambitions we expressed in 2013 are being met.

The point of this column is not judgements (let he/she who is free of sin cast the first stone etc. etc.) but to reflect on the business of reflection.

It is often said that change only occurs as a result of crisis. If true, this would be a sad statement on human capability.

The Blueprint is an attempt to map opportunities and necessary change without the stimulus of crisis.

My own assessment of the Blueprint, necessarily coloured because I helped deliver it, is that it has aged well. The principles it spoke to remain valid. 

The fundamentals of a robust agriculture sector don’t change. Innovation, trade, competitiveness, people, natural resources — all headline themes of the Blueprint — these are timeless and independent of geography.

They are also relevant across the many approaches to agriculture that collectively make up our agriculture sector. Apart from our common production of food and fibre, farming is different things to different people. 

Within our sectors-within-a-sector, it could be useful to review the Blueprint, and the individual sector’s own ambitions, and consider how current reality compares to the ideal. And where there are gaps, how far might they be closed by 2020?

But this will be hard, because who has time these days to sit down and think?

We are not short of tools and technology and ideas.

We are short of time to do the sort of deep thinking that went into the Blueprint, and as importantly, to periodically pull out such plans and do the thinking necessary to make them work.

But if we don’t do this, the question remains: where are we going?

  • Robbie Sefton has a dual investment in rural Australia as a farmer, producing wool, meat and grains and as managing director of national marketing communications company Seftons.
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