Keep the con­nec­tions strong

Tasmanian Country - - OPINION - Wayne John­ston

BE­ING the pres­i­dent of a peak farm­ing body like the TFGA has af­forded me many op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The role is what you make it of course but, if you do it right, it al­lows you a unique in­sight into the true di­ver­sity of the Tas­ma­nian agri­cul­tural sec­tor — the highs and the lows, the chal­lenges and the vic­to­ries.

My big chal­lenge is bal­anc­ing the de­mands of the role with run­ning a farm busi­ness.

Last week I trav­elled to King Is­land to mark the 20th an­niver­sary of the King Is­land Beef Pro­duc­ers Group, and en­joy a dose of is­land hos­pi­tal­ity and a quick game of golf.

It was a great event and con­grat­u­la­tions to Rod Gra­ham and Roger Cle­mons for be­com­ing the in­au­gu­ral life mem­bers of the very ac­tive is­land group.

King Is­land farm­ers are amaz­ing. The value that they achieve out of pro­duc­tion space that equates to not much more than 60km by 25km is out­stand­ing, and in many cases the envy of other pro­duc­ers around Tas­ma­nia. But like other pro­duc­ers, they also face their chal­lenges.

Freight and the is­sues sur­round­ing it have plagued the is­land for some time now. The TFGA has al­ways worked closely with our mem­bers and the Govern­ment to tackle the area’s unique tran­sit chal­lenges.

The new in­terim ves­sel, due early next year, is an im­por­tant first step. We hope that the larger ves­sel also trans­lates to lower freight costs.

While King Is­land and my own farm here at Me­an­der are both reap­ing the ben­e­fits of de­cent rain­fall, the chal­lenges faced by our mem­bers and col­leagues in the south and east of the state are in­creas­ing as a dry au­tumn and win­ter turn into a tough spring and sum­mer.

A phone call from a south­ern-based mem­ber high­lighted that things have gone from bad to worse in his area. The daily stresses of hav­ing to ir­ri­gate early and feed­ing out are be­ing com­pounded by the fact that there is still a long hot sum­mer ahead. We know that these con­di­tions are be­ing repli­cated else­where. This mem­ber asked us to make sure the govern­ment, the pub­lic and other farm­ers are made aware of the sit­u­a­tion; that they get the mes­sage that the time for ac­tion is fast ap­proach­ing.

The TFGA is al­ready hav­ing dis­cus­sions at a state and fed­eral level about what con­tin­gency plans should be in place.

We also em­pha­sise the need for Ru­ral Alive and Well’s ser­vices to con­tinue to be fully funded through­out the state. This ser­vice is a vi­tal tool for our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties when times are tough.

It’s never easy to put up your hand and say, “I need help”. But, in the best in­ter­ests of your fam­i­lies, your busi­nesses, your com­mu­ni­ties and the Tas­ma­nian econ­omy I urge you to do so.

It is our job to ad­vo­cate for mem­bers who are fac­ing some­times in­sur­mount­able chal­lenges. Whether it be ad­vo­cat­ing on freight is­sues, fight­ing for ru­ral re­lief, or merely be­ing an un­der­stand­ing ear with ad­vice on who best to turn to when times get tough. It is the beauty of be­ing a part of a mem­ber­ship or­gan­i­sa­tion — you do not have to face your chal­lenges alone.

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