NEWLY elected National Farmers' Federation (NFF) Vice President David Jochinke says he’ll put farmers’ interests before political correctness in Canberra.
The 40 year-old grains and livestock farmer and Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) President is intensifying his standing in the national leadership stakes, having served as an NFF director over the past four years and grass roots involvement in farm representation for 22 years.
He replaces rice grower and water expert Les Gordon as NFF deputy leader and will back-up Fiona Simson who was returned uncontested for a second term as President of Australia’s peak farm lobby group at its Annual General Meeting in Canberra yesterday.
“It does feel like that a lot of the political correctness we are pursuing needs to be readjusted,” Mr Jochinke said.
“We should be able to say that we want to be the best producers in the world in x, y and z products and be unashamed about that and get on board with it.
“We shouldn’t play the politics of ‘we can’t go there’ because of some political party that wants to try to get votes or preferences.
“Let’s actually make a stand and talk about the issues that really matter to farmers and that’s about making sure agriculture has every opportunity to not only produce the best produce in the world but also access the best markets.”
Mr Jochinke said profitability was top of his mind, in representing farmers’ interests.
“As a producer anything to do with profitability is what drives a lot of people who are not only joining the industry but have been around for a long time,” he said.
“Profitability is about being able to sell produce for the best price and accessing markets that offer premium prices but then everything that backs that up like biosecurity, cost of production, the ability to reduce red tape and things like taxation are still on the agenda.
“We need to reform and make sure we’re maximising the production of not only Australia but agriculture in that system.”
He said he was “very passionate” about making sure local government supported agriculture, encouraging young farmers in the industry and believes water also remains a “huge issue” for the NFF to tackle, especially the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
At 40 years of age, he doesn’t regard himself as a young farmer anymore and had to give up that title when he turned 35.
“But this is a great industry to be involved with and I’m very glad to have the support of the NFF family and the Victorian Farmers Federation as well,” Mr Jochinke said.
“Representing farmers is something I’m very passionate about and stepping into the NFF Vice President’s role was really a timing issue for me.
“I’ve been around the table at the NFF for a while now working on committees and chairing committees and fortunate enough to have been an NFF director and now in this role as Vice President, representing all farmers at national level.
“I’ve been at VFF since I was 18 at branch level and involved on the VFF executive for seven years and working on the NFF executive for four years.
“The main purpose of the Vice President is to back up the President 100pc but also I’m very passionate about young farmers getting involved in representation and also about making sure we provide a good value proposition to our members.”
Other results from the NFF elections saw three new board Directors elected - Agforce Director and cattle producer Robyn Bryant, Dried Fruits President Mark King and NSWFarmers President and mixed farmer Derek Schoen.
GrainGrowers Chair John Eastburn and NSWFarmers Executive Councillor and cattle producer Tony Hegarty were elected for a further term.
Independent Directors David Carr and Andrea Koch were appointed to the NFF board in August 2017.
NFF members also voted in favour of constitutional changes to extend director terms from one year to three years, with a maximum of two terms able to be served.
Ms Simson thanked Mr Gordon and outgoing directors Grant Maudsley and Mark Horan for their contribution to the NFF.
"It is only possible for the Federation to continue to do what it does, when there is a willingness from people to come forward and serve,” she said.
“Our outgoing Directors are those such people.
"The role of NFF board member requires time away from families and businesses and a significant amount of behind-the-scenes work.
"I would especially like to recognise the contribution of outgoing Vice President Les Gordon.
"In my first year as President I have valued immensely Les' counsel, support and wisdom.
"Les continues to be a valued part of the NFF team as the Chair of the Water Taskforce."
The newly-elected NFF board will meet for the first time during December.
Assistant Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Anne Ruston welcomed Ms Simson’s re-appointment to the NFF President’s position, saying the NSW farmer had made an “outstanding contribution to our $60 billion agriculture sector over the past year”.
“I look forward to continuing to work with her in the role,” she said.
“Rural women have always played an integral role in Australian agriculture and rural communities, and she has been an inspiration as the first female President in the NFF’s 37-year history.
“She has great practical knowledge as a farmer herself, along with considerable experience representing farmers, and will continue to be an asset to our sector.”
Mr Jochinke said the NFF’s work to restructure itself in recent years to develop a national unified brand and model to speak for farmers through a single peak national body, remained an item of discussion.
“The appetite is still there and we still talk about it as a general rule in different circles about what it means and how can we make the system more efficient and nimble and vibrant for members,” he said.
“To say it’s been shelved is probably too harsh a word.
“I’d suggest it’s in hiatus at the moment until we can get the purpose aligned and until we can see what the next steps are.
“We’ve still got a bit of reorganising to do as far as roles and responsibilities within industry and I still think that we should be aspiring to try to make ourselves as streamlined and strengthened as possible.
“The model of what that looks like and how we organise ourselves is still up for question.
“I’d suggest the pinnacle of our aspirations should be to come together under one structure but we also need to ensure we’re not duplicating roles and we should be cutting costs where we can like shared services.
“But even with shared services, we need to make sure it’s delivering on its promise and everyone’s getting the service they signed up for.”