As 2023 comes to a close and I look back over the past 12 months, I wonder what has really changed?
The issues which were prevalent this time last year are still the main ones on the minds of our farmers now.
What the outcome will be for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and biosecurity are at the top of many growers' lists of concerns.
Both these issues have demonstrated to me just how out of touch our federal government is with our farming communities.
Anyone who has spoken to people from irrigation-dependant communities knows that water buybacks have such an adverse affect on local economies.
How can a government that claims they have listened to all stakeholders say that buybacks are the answer?
Thousands of people protesting in the streets should have told Water Minister Tanya Plibersek and her government that buybacks are not the answer.
Some communities are only now starting to find their feet from the last round of buybacks and this government wants to do it all again.
There has to be a better way because history has told us that buybacks aren't it.
Nothing showed me how much our federal government was out of touch with agriculture than the announcement of the biosecurity levy.
How is it fair to ask our already struggling farmers to pay a levy so that their competition can import products into the country?
It is abundantly clear to everybody that the threat of a new biosecurity incursion can't come from growers on our side of the border, it can only come from overseas and so they should be the ones to pay the levy.
There is a definite need for better biosecurity funding, but the levy as it stands is not the answer. Asking our growers to pay for their competition to enter Australia is an absolute farce.
Another example of a government out of touch is the proposed sheep live export ban. Australia is a world leader in conditions for export animals and we hold our trading partners to the same levels.
To ban sheep exports by sea will only give other export countries free reign over conditions, which will have a very negative effect on animal welfare.
Just to make sure we were all aware of our government's lack of understanding on this, they sent a delegation to a country in the Middle East to announce we would be discontinuing to export sheep by boat.
Unfortunately, the delegation was sent to the wrong offices, one which has nothing to do with the issue.
In the context of our short term election cycles there is so much for politicians to learn as they take on these portfolios, often having not had much exposure previously to the industry they in turn represent, and with examples like the above is it therefore any wonder farmers appear to have little confidence in their ability to understand the implications of their decisions?
On a different note, I continue to be amazed by the resilience of producers in our state.
I spoke to a number of apiarists this year when I was writing stories on Varroa mite and despite losing thousands of bees, they were always positive in their mindsets.
While the general public knew about Varroa, the impact it had on the broader agriculture sector went unnoticed.
People were concerned about honey production, not realising it was the pollination aspect of the bee industry that was the major concern.
Funnily enough, cheap imported honey was one of the reasons some beekeepers would not replenish hives as they couldn't compete in the market.
Like with everything we buy at the supermarket, making sure we are buying Australian-made products is critical to the survival of the agriculture sector.
The Varroa incursion was a good demonstration of how unprepared our state was for a major biosecurity issue.
It was the wake up call we needed with foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease on our doorstep.
Another thing which Varroa showed us is the tireless, and often thankless, work the NSW Department of Primary Industries does.
The DPI was in a tough position, following direction from a national committee while beekeepers on the ground screamed for a change from containment to management.
A highlight for me this year was returning to Eugowra and Forbes to speak with producers who were affected in the floods of 2022. Seeing how they had dealt with adversity and were getting back on their feet was inspiring. They are the embodiment of the Aussie farmer.
One goat producer near Forbes was just about to cut his first lot of hay at the end of November since his place was flooded a year earlier.
He said without the support of agriculture-related charities, his operation could not have survived.
These charities rush to help producers whenever there is a natural disaster and do great work.
On a personal front, my house has become a menagerie with the number of pets we are responsible for.
We have three dogs, although my British Bulldog is the weight of one and a half, so really we have three and a half dogs.
Our cat rules the house and doesn't put up with anyone while we also have two guinea pigs and two rabbits.
Rounding out our pets is my eastern long-necked turtle, Shelby, who is thriving in a tank of her own.
I have what some may call an affliction, if I see a turtle on the road I have to pull over and move it to the side, sometimes guessing which direction it was headed.
During the wet early this year, I went on a trip down to Deniliquin, across to Mildura and back to my home in Parkes and saw a large number of turtles, causing me to be consistently stopping, getting out of the car and moving them.
What was already a long trip was made all the longer. When I returned home, I had a sense I was helping look after the world around me... and hundreds of photos of different sized shelled pedestrians.