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TAS Country : February 10th 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011 Tasmanian Country 7 Everyone benefits from farm research TFGA matters with Jan Davis REGULAR readers will know I have been a critic of the Productivity Commission's view that Australia should reduce its public spending on food and agricultural research. They seem to be proposing that, as the default position, farmers should put their hands in their own pockets if their industry is a beneficiary of research. That is a bean counter's view of the national research task. It overlooks the fact that Australian farmers have been hit from all sides over recent years by weird patterns of weather events and unfavourable international trading circumstances. Yet they continue to do their bit to maintain national food security and to keep the economy in the black. That economy benefits from an efficient, well-researched farm sector that takes its data from both publicly and privately funded research. Therefore, it was with some interest that recently I read a view from the US, ''A Food Manifesto for the Future'', by Mark Bittman in the New York Times, in which he said: ''For decades, Americans believed that we had the world's healthiest and safest diet. We worried little about this diet's effect on the environment or on the lives of the animals [or even the workers] it relies upon. ''Nor did we worry about its ability to endure -- that is, its sustainability. ''That didn't mean all was well. And we've come to recognise that our diet is unhealthful [sic] and unsafe.'' Bittman then listed a series of ideas to improve the growing, preparation and consumption of food, including: Ending government subsidies on processed food. Giving subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption. ''Small farmers and their employees need to make living wages,'' he wrote. Encouraging sustainable animal husbandry. Encouraging and subsidising home cooking. ''When people cook their own food, they make better choices. When families eat together, they're more stable,'' he wrote. Taxing the marketing and sale of unhealthy food. ''This isn't nanny- state paternalism but an accepted role of government: public health,'' he wrote. Making truth in labelling mandatory. ''Nearly everything labelled 'healthy' or 'natural' is not,'' he wrote. He advocated reinvesting in research that was geared towards sustainable agriculture that combined technology and tradition. Sure, he makes these comments with respect to the US situation, but they apply equally in most cases to what happens in Australia. And that's the key point that seems to have evaded the Productivity Commission here in Australia. The future of farming in Tasmania (and Australia) is precisely that combination: technology and tradition. The Tasmanian food brand is about traditional values. We used to call it home-grown, fresh. Today it is clean and green, organic, preservative-free, etc.The brand conjures up images of the Sassafras farmer harvesting fresh, crunchy vegetables from chocolate soils. It is the application of technology that makes farming more efficient and that opens up new opportunities. Irrigation advances are an example of this combination of technology and tradition. We don't get better at what we do by chance -- and we cannot expect the farmer or organisations such as the TFGA to assume prime responsibility for food research. We are not the only beneficiaries of research. The whole community also benefits. Farmers implement that research. They continually strive to do things better, while maintaining the tradition and reputation of their brand. http://opinionator.blogs. nytimes.com/2011/02/01/a-food- manifesto-for-the-future/ Oh what a wonderful web she weaves on a site for sore eyes HI-TECH: Nardia Bassett updates the new- look TFGA website. JENNIFER CRAWLEY A NEW design is wowing people logging on to the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association website. The new-look website was launched two weeks ago and farmers are loving it. The website was designed by TFGA communications officer Nardia Bassett, from Launceston. ''It's clean, it's user-friendly, and the feedback from the farmers has been fantastic,'' said Nardia, who was in charge of the design and layout and worked with TFGA chief executive Jan Davis on the site's subject matter. ''It was important to us that farmers can find information quickly and it's easy to access.'' The online content is updated daily by Nardia, who worked closely with web design company Growcom Communications in the site's design. Nardia, 27, worked in communications and event management for not-for-profit organisations before starting with the TFGA almost three years ago, ''I never thought I would be responsible for a magazine, manage conferences or look after sponsors,'' she said. ''I love it. It's such a volatile industry, things change very quickly and you have to learn to respond. ''We want the best for our members and primary producers. ''A lot of time without warning you are up against it, like the dairy cut in milk price and McCain pulling out. We work hard at ensuring our farmers don't suffer at the end of line.'' Nardia said results could be achieved if more Tasmanian primary producers became members of the TFGA. ''The more voices the higher the achievement,'' she said. ''We're all singing the same chorus.'' Nardia said the TFGA staff was a great mix with some ''young blood''. ''It's refreshing, it's just fabulous,'' she said. Meanwhile, the TFGA's Launceston office is being spruced up with new artwork on the walls and a plasma screen in the reception area showing footage of TFGA directors. 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February 3rd 2011
February 17th 2011