Field days demonstrate the value of grower groups

Peter Reading

By Peter Reading, Managing Director, Grains Research and Development Corporation

Recently I had the privilege of attending the Birchip Cropping Group and Hart Field Days. Both events were well run and clearly showcased the results of local research and extension trials.

The enthusiasm and commitment of local organisers was evident and this helped generate high interest among the estimated 600 people who attended each event. The field days clearly showed the impact of growers leveraging funds and "in kind" contributions from the wider grains industry including the GRDC, state governments, grower organisations and private industry.

Being able to leverage a broad range of funding sources will help ensure the ongoing viability of grower groups as a means of facilitating the validation and adoption of grains research. Grower groups also have the capacity to contribute to the sustainability of the broader community.

The last two months has seen the continuing roll-out of the Australian Grains Production and Value Chain forum meetings. The forums explain the key elements of the "Single Vision" Australian Grains Industry Strategy 2005-2025 and seek feedback from growers on the issues facing the grains industry. A summary of this vision for the next fi ve years is included with this issue of Ground Cover.

The GRDC has also been considering the findings of the "Single Vision" industry strategy document and how these should influence GRDC activities. The document highlighted among other things the high levels of fragmentation and duplication in the grains industry and the need for increased emphasis on market-driven research and development.

Another key finding of this review has been the need for the GRDC to play a leadership role in coordinating and facilitating a national grains research and development agenda.

This is crucial (and echoed in the "Single Vision" strategy) if Australian growers are to continue to compete effectively, sustainably and innovatively in the rapidly changing global grains market. To achieve this the GRDC must meet and hopefully exceed the expectations of our principal stakeholders (growers and the Australian government). At the same time growers - and also government - need to have a clearer understanding of the GRDC"s role and the fact that it delivers tangible value to the grains industry.

Going forward, the GRDC will focus on a number of "pathways to market" principles for GRDC-supported research. These pathways include: better varieties faster, better farming practices adopted faster, "new products" and "building research capacity".

As a service to growers, this issue of Ground Cover also includes a summary of the 2004 Wheat Marketing Review conducted by an independent panel appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The Review assessed the performance of AWB (International) Ltd as the commercial manager of the wheat export single desk and its obligations to maximise returns to graingrowers, and also examined the Wheat Export Authority"s performance.

It is important to point out that the GRDC has no connection with the review or its content, but its distribution in Ground Cover is regarded as a service to growers and the broader community.