I'm looking forward to seeing how newly appointed NSW Agriculture Commissioner Daryl Quinlivan can deliver positive outcomes through this first-time role.
Mr Quinlivan took up the challenge in August and late last year outlined his key priorities and ambitions in a speech to the NSW Farm Writers Association.
Firstly, it was encouraging to hear him say the Commissioner's job isn't just about serving farmers and will also deliver outcomes for rural communities.
If we get the growth opportunities right, not only will the agricultural sector be larger and richer for it, but so too will all of the rural communities that depend on agriculture and that will be a wonderful thing for the country, he said.
Secondly, he has a great mix of experience which gives him real insight into the sector's challenges and what governments can do to help, or hinder, farmers' lives.
He worked at the Federal Agriculture Department for 10 years, including as secretary from 2015 to 2020, and spent time at the Productivity Commission; but importantly, he also runs Angus cattle and fine wool Merinos on his 320 hectare property at Boorowa.
By his own admission, he loves farming and lives it too, keeping him in touch with the reality of many problems he's trying to help solve, such as animal welfare, water use and market fluctuations.
"There's a diversity among farmers which you would never understand reading the metropolitan press ... in what they do, what they think and how they conduct their lives," he told the Farm Writers event.
"There's the same richness in rural communities among farmers as there is in any other community, including urban communities ... they're not a uniform species."
His new role has no statutory authority or powers and he'll be providing policy advice to help shape decisions made by the NSW Minister for Agriculture.
His first task is looking at the interaction between the NSW planning system and agriculture and how that system can be used more purposefully for agriculture.
A key plank of that work will be investigating how the planning system can be used to grow NSW agriculture and manage existing issues, such as the growing problem of land use conflicts.
He said state governments have tended to create these sorts of roles to deal with a crisis, such as droughts or bushfire recovery.
"I'm not reacting to, or trying to create a more effective pathway out of a crisis - the job I've been given is to help the NSW government to make better policy decisions, as they effect agriculture and farming communities," he told the audience.
"If we can improve the climate for investment in agriculture in NSW that would be the single most important thing we could do for the future of agriculture and rural communities."
- ROBBIE SEFTON is the managing director of national marketing communications company, Seftons, and farmer.
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