The vagaries of the weather, the ups and downs of commodity markets and the shifting political landscape has meant 2017 has been a real rollercoaster ride for broadacre agriculture.
For AgForce, the year began much the same way it finished in 2016 – with a battle against Defence plans to expand military training grounds by compulsorily acquiring the land of dozens of Queensland farming families.
Thankfully, the Federal Government saw common sense and retreated in early February, with Defence now only engaging with willing sellers.
By early March, a record 87 per cent of Queensland was drought declared, but before the month was out Cyclone Debbie struck, causing widespread flooding and devastating primary producers in the cyclone’s path while also bringing welcome rain in areas that didn’t feel Debbie’s full fury.
In the middle of the year, biosecurity planning was the big issue for cattle producers to meet new requirements for managing Bovine Johne’s Disease and for accreditation under Meat and Livestock Australia’s Livestock Production Assurance program.
This created an enormous demand for assistance and AgForce helped co-ordinate more than 50 workshops attended by more than 5000 cattle producers, all in the space of just a few months.
The end of the year was dominated by the State Election, with AgForce developing a comprehensive policy document – ‘Thriving Farms, Thriving Queensland’ – that outlined key priorities to drive growth in agriculture and create more jobs in regional Queensland.
To promote these priorities, we briefed politicians, candidates and advisers, organised ‘Politics in the Pub’ forums in Townsville and Rockhampton, held multiple media conferences and produced dozens of social media shareables.
Our key message was – if agriculture thrives, Queensland thrives.
There is no doubt 2018 will also have its challenges, particularly with a re-elected Palaszczuk Labor Government set to bring back flawed vegetation management laws and more than two-thirds of Queensland still drought declared.
But with global demand for our high-quality food and fibre on the rise and innovative new technology changing the way we do business, there is certainly also cause for optimism.
On behalf of everyone from AgForce, thank you for your continued support and I look forward to working with you and for you in 2018.