IF the perfect ice-breaker was needed at the first meeting of Barnaby Joyce’s new agricultural advisory body at Wahgunyah yesterday then it was within arm’s reach.
The group of 10 industry representatives met Mr Joyce at All Saints Estate and glasses of wine were gladly accepted at the end of its first session.
“It’s a bit like a school dance,” the Agriculture Minister quipped.
“Everyone is working out what the moves are and breaking through that ice.”
The Agricultural Industry Advisory Council is tasked with helping to form the government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper aimed at shoring-up the industry’s viability.
“I didn’t want leaders of industry, as in peak body representative chairs,” Mr Joyce said.
“I wanted people who are good in their industry, but on the ground.”
Mr Joyce said debt, increasing markets, cutting red tape and fair deals with supermarkets were just some of the areas of concern for his advisory group.
However, a better return to the farm gate was the big issue.
“We know we have a great opportunity in front of us, but we’ve got to organise ourselves so we can capitalise it. The government needs to organise itself to capitalise on it,” he said.
All Saints Estate and St Leonard’s Vineyard chief executive Eliza Brown is on the council with a Queensland grazier, a NSW woolgrower and stud breeder, a Tasmanian fisherman, a South Australian grain grower and a Northern Territory cattleman.
“I’m doing this for my kids,” Ms Brown said.
“Everybody at the table is looking out for the next generation.
“We’re not here for ourselves, we’re here about making sure it’s buoyant for the next generation.”
Building exports for small to medium wineries was one issue she would raise.
“We can’t compete in the supermarkets,” she said.
“It’s about getting our wine to the world stage and drawing the world back here.”
The government’s free trade deal with Japan this week cuts tariffs for farm sectors, but drew criticism from the dairy industry for not cutting enough.
“Beef seems happy, grain seems happy, horticulture’s happy, sugar is not so happy and dairy is definitely unhappy,” Mr Joyce said.
“It’s literally like going over to someone’s house,” Mr Joyce said.
“Once the deal’s been put on the table, you’re going to take it or leave it — we’re going to try to work with what we’ve got.”