Australian Farm Institute research head, Richard Heath, is to take over as the agricultural think tank’s new executive director, replacing long-serving chief, Mick Keogh.
Mr Keogh, the AFI’s founding executive director, will leave the job on May 29 to take a full-time role as a deputy chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Already a part-time ACCC commissioner focused on agricultural competition issues since February 2016, his new brief extends to cover small business Australia-wide as well as agriculture.
His elevation to the new position was announced by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Thursday.
Mick has nurtured the organisation from its inception through to its current position as the only independent Australian think tank specialising in agriculture
AFI chairman, David Anthony, said Mick Keogh’s leadership had developed the institute’s strong reputation for credible and principled policy advice in agriculture.
“Our board expresses its thanks to Mick for his leadership of the institute over almost 15 years, and wishes him well in his new role,” he said.
“He has nurtured the organisation from its inception through to its current position as the only independent Australian think tank specialising in agriculture.”
His replacement, former NSW Liverpool Plains farmer Mr Heath, joined the AFI as general manager of research in early 2016.
He is also a Grains Research and Development Corporation director and has been a board member of Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars.
Prior to joining the AFI, he was associate professor of agronomy and farm management for the University of Sydney.
He also owned an agricultural technology consulting business and was responsible for the cropping operations on the family’s farming business “Pine Cliff” at Curlewis, near Gunnedah.
“Richard has already demonstrated his strong leadership credentials,” Mr Anthony said.
“He has been instrumental in driving new institute initiatives in recent times, including a major focus on digital agriculture.
The non-profit AFI was established in December 2003 to conduct independent research into public policy issues impacting on the local farm sector, and promote policy solutions which could maximise the economic and social wellbeing of farmers.
Despite its relatively short history, AFI research outcomes have been influential in developing new approaches on a range of agricultural issues by governments.
Mr Keogh said although cutting his official ties with the institute, he was likely to maintain a close association with the body and be available for feedback.
“I take the view I should let the new CEO get on with his job, so I won’t have a direct involvement for the moment, but after 15 years of the AFI being a major part of my life, I won’t walk away altogether,” he said.
Mr Anthony credited Mr Keogh with not only keeping the AFI afloat financially, but also recruiting some talented staff to expand the AFI’s endeavours.
“The work undertaken by the institute under Mick’s tenure has led to the development of policies benefiting agriculture in areas such as carbon farming and the adoption of digital technology in agriculture.
“As well, research in a variety of policy areas – including trade, competition policy and genetic modification – has supported important debates in these areas.”
Mr Anthony said AFI directors were very confident Richard Heath and the AFI staff would continue to develop the organisation’s role in “shaping policies that positively impact on the agriculture sector”.
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