THE Australian Year of the Farmer missed a golden opportunity, writes MICK KEOGH
The Australian Year of the Farmer was a campaign conducted during 2012 that aimed to celebrate and promote the work of Australian farmers.
And to showcase the critical role that agriculture plays in the Australian economy.
To develop, fund and implement such a comprehensive program over an entire year, and to engage the highest levels of both state and federal governments in the events was a major achievement, and those involved need to be congratulated for their dedication and effort.
In the sober early morning light of 2013, there is merit in considering what the lasting legacy of the AYOF will be, and whether, in cold hard commercial terms, it has delivered the Australian farming sector value for money.
An economist may conclude the AYOF campaign probably only generated minimal direct economic benefits.
Rural people may feel more confident and reassured about the worth of their industry, school students more likely to choose agriculture as a career, urban people having a raised awareness of the role of farmers and agriculture in the economy there is obviously some economic value in these.
Increased community awareness of agriculture could also result in school leavers being more interested in an agricultural career, boosting the agricultural workforce and reducing added costs associated with labour shortages.
No doubt some of these benefits were generated by the AYOF, but it is likely the total value of such benefits was not substantial, relative to the expenditure.
There are many groups in the community - for example lawyers, doctors or automobile industry workers - who could just as easily claim that their industry or sector is undervalued by the wider community, and governments should help in promoting their sector.
It is likely a government analysis of the AYOF promotion would conclude that the benefits to the wider community were at best marginal and short-lived. There are many reasons Australian and overseas consumers should actively seek out and purchase Australian-grown products.
Unfortunately, these are not promoted to consumers in any meaningful way, which means consumers are not given reasons they should select Brand Australia.
Promoting Australian farm produce to domestic and international consumers, and giving them sound reasons to seek out and buy those products, has the potential to result in long-term benefits.
- Mick Keogh is executive director of the Australian Farm Institute