LEADERS of the two representative organisations (ROs) in charge of monitoring the performance of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) have welcomed a federal government move to review agricultural research.
Agriculture minister David Littleproud has announced a strategic review of agricultural innovation, including the performance of research and development (R&D) corporations, a step both Grain Producers Australia (GPA) and Grain Growers say is positive.
However, David McKeon, Grain Growers chief executive, said it was critical grower views were taken into consideration when making decisions about ag R&D.
“You look at the set-up of an organisation like GRDC in particular, where the majority of its funding comes from grower levies and it is critical that growers are really involved in the decision making process.”
Andrew Weidemann, GPA chairman, said the overarching review would be a good chance to look at ideas that have popularity among growers, such as the concept of GRDC converting to an industry owned company (IOC).
“It is not a review into the operations of the RDCs in specific, more of an overall look at how we do research in Australian agriculture and I think we could revisit the topic of what an IOC could deliver to grains research without having to necessarily have it done that day.”
Mr Weidemann said he believed an IOC could be advantageous to grains research, allowing for a more nimble research provider.
“There could be benefits in being able to tackle pressing research priorities quicker without having to go through the processes required by the current structure.”
He also said it could be useful in allowing the researcher to have ‘skin in the game’ in terms of having majority ownership of commercial research businesses, allowing a better flow in public-private research partnerships.
Mr McKeon agreed.
“When compared globally, Australia is not a large market for agricultural inputs and services,” he said.
“We must therefore be smarter and more innovative in the way we attract capital and knowledge into our rural RD&E system.
However, both men said fundamentally the RDC system had served the Australian grains sector well and advocated an evolution of the current system rather than a dramatic overhaul.
“The Australian rural RDC model is the envy of our global farming competitors and peers – we must continue to enhance it in a way that keeps Australian farmers ahead of the curve,” Mr McKeon said.
“Our research system has a lot of positives, we just need to look at what we can do better,” Mr Weidemann said.