Ian MacKinnon is chairman of the Southern Regional Panel of the GRDC, which takes in southern NSW, Victoria, SA and Tasmania.
Mr MacKinnon is a 1,000 hectare-a-year graingrower (principally barley, oats, pulses and poppies) at Conara in Tasmania where he has a commercial fine and medium wool enterprise. He has been on the southern panel since 1992, becoming chairman in 1998
A big challenge for panel decision-making is the diversity of production in the panel area and the varying production systems. Panel members are assisted by research advisory committees and grower linkage groups.
"They let us know what new things are happening on the farms — early on," he says. In addition to ongoing research priorities, he says the following items are high on the list.
- Provide farmers with greater access to good farm advisers (agronomic and financial). This will mean training more advisers. "Farming systems are very complicated and will become more so."
- Encourage more students to undertake agricultural studies at universities. "We have to convince the Year 11s and 12s that a career in agriculture is challenging and rewarding."
- Stimulate product development, especially new products, including those from pulses. "To assist this we need to encourage more partnerships between the GRDC and industry."