Cropping

Call for overhaul of research model: AIA

Grain Central, April 23, 2018

THE Ag Institute Australia (AIA) – the organisation representing agricultural professionals – has called for an overhaul of Australia’s Research, Development and Extension (RD&E) model to ensure the nation’s scientific capability for the future.

Andrew Bishop

In its latest policy paper, ‘The Agricultural Research and Development Model’, the AIA calls for greater investment of public funds in RD&E, with resources to be invested in both projects and people.

In addition, it has recommended the re-establishment of a Land, Water and Climate R&D Corporation.

“Clearly significant changes have taken place since the original Research and Development model, via corporation (RDC), was developed and that has served agricultural research well,” AIA chair, Andrew Bishop, said.

“However, there is an over-riding need to re-evaluate the RDC model so that appropriate resources are in place to allow the system to create and implement the research that is so critical to our future.

“Perhaps the most significant change has been RDC’s becoming ‘core’ funders of RD&E rather than ‘marginal’ funders, with Government institutions now no longer investing as much in RD&E scientists.”

A number of RDC’s have absorbed the reductions in critical RD&E positions in State Departments of Agriculture, with this reduction in staffing having the direct impact of reducing the capacity to accelerate adoption of new technology.

“It also has a ‘knock-on’ effect of the Departments of Agriculture no longer serving as a training ground for professional consultants, leading to a shortage of young professional consultants and the appointment by some agribusiness firms of under-qualified field staff,” Mr Bishop said.

“Increased investment of public funds will protect the contribution agriculture makes to the overall economy – public funds invested in RD&E have excellent returns on investment, usually in excess of $9 for each dollar invested.”

The main points of the paper are:

  • Government should continue to invest public funds into RD&E
  • Government should focus some of its investment in RD&E into enabling and supporting

collaboration

  • Investments must be made carefully, but not prescriptively
  • Funds should be invested in people as well as projects
  • Additional public funds should be invested in Extension to secure the greatest

advantages from innovation

  • Funding should be specifically applied to advance training in Extension Methodology
  • The re-establishment of a Land, Water and Climate R&D Corporation is warranted
  • It is important to ensure close engagement with farmers in the processes of RD&E.

Source: AIA

Read the policy paper, ‘The Agricultural Research and Development Model’.

 

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Comments

  1. Ronald Esdaile, April 23, 2018

    I sympathise with the lofty aims and objectives of the Agricultural Institute. However as one who has been involved with agricultural R. & D. as well as being a practical farmer, I cannot see any significant turn around in the current situation in the near term.
    CSIRO has been ‘gutted’ by recent governments in the last decade, resulting in the loss of experienced agricultural research workers, who have retired early, or re-located to overseas positions.
    All States have experienced the same downsizing, with loss of both research and extension staff. Much practical extension advice is now being done by private consultants, some of whom are attached to agricultural merchandise companies. Most plant breeding has moved from the public sector to private companies.
    The same scenario is also being played out in other western nations, notably USA and Canada. The current Australian grower levy system has in my opinion been a part rescuer of much of the research effort, which has been ruthlessly cut by governments of all persuasions. Unfortunately agriculture has dropped down the priority list due to the demands of other parts of the economy such as health and welfare.
    My guess is that sometime the ‘free ride’ of cheap and reliable commodities to the Australian consumer will end, due to the penny-pinching attitude of our State and Federal politicians to the Ag. research community.

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