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