Western Australian grain grower Andy Duncan believes in giving back to agriculture – an industry he is passionate about and which he says has been good to him.
“I have a personal philosophy to be involved in industry affairs, and over the years I’ve been involved with quite a few different industry representative bodies,” he said.
This was one of the reasons he applied for a position on the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) western regional panel, the role of which is to help ensure that growers’ most important production issues are the focus of GRDC investments.
Along with Merredin grain grower Jules Alvaro, wheat geneticist Greg Rebetzke from CSIRO and GRDC executive manager Stuart Kearns, Mr Duncan was appointed to the 11-person panel in September, 2015.
Returning panellists include Dunn Rock grower Peter Roberts (chairman), agronomy and farming systems specialist Mike Ewing (deputy chairman), Mingenew growers Paul Kelly and Darrin Lee, agricultural consultant Bill Ryan, Esperance grower Gemma Walker and well known WA agronomic and agribusiness advisor Chris Wilkins.
Mr Duncan says that, with some of his time being freed up as his adult children took on greater roles in the family’s farming business at West River near Ravensthorpe in WA’s South Coast region, he felt he could dedicate sufficient time to the new role.
“I think that if you put time into something, you have to dedicate yourself entirely - you can’t do it half-heartedly,” he said.
Mr Duncan moved to West River in the early 1980s, with much of his property being uncleared ‘new land’ at the time.
Today, his family runs a mixed farming enterprise, comprised primarily of barley, wheat and canola.
“In the cropping mix we also have field peas and lupins, and moving forward we will probably be involved in hay production. We also run a self-replacing Merino flock,” Mr Duncan said.
Mr Duncan names herbicide resistance and weed management, and the broader issue of financial and production sustainability, as the main challenges on the farm.
“In terms of specific industry issues, I’m also passionate about the issue of barley head loss, which is a major cost to the industry,” he said.
“From a broader context, I’m quite concerned about the long-term sustainability of our minimum-tillage system and the utilisation of knockdown chemicals to drive that system.”
Industry bodies that Mr Duncan has been involved with include the Grain Industry Association of WA (GIWA) Barley Council, South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA) and the CBH Group Grower Advisory Council, which he chaired for a period.
“I’ve also had a very recent involvement with the GRDC Esperance Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN), which has given me a very good insight into the workings of the GRDC,” he said.
“I’d like to think that among the skills I can bring to the GRDC western regional panel is the fact that I’ve had a long association with representative bodies within the industry.”
Mr Duncan views his new role on the GRDC western regional panel as important, given the contribution made by grain growers to GRDC investments via their levies.
“All Australian grain growers pay levies and it’s important that we have a process that has very good due diligence in order to see a good outcome with these levies,” he said.
“But probably even more so, it’s very important that we have a bottom-up process in terms of identifying and prioritising issues for research and development, and I think grower involvement is absolutely critical in that process.”
The GRDC plans and invests in RD&E for the Australian grains industry. Its primary objective is to support effective competition by Australian grain growers in global grain markets, through enhanced profitability and sustainability.
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Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
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