11 August 2023

Rice Growers' Conference: industry trio model 'envy of the world'

| Oliver Jacques
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Three people outside Rice Growers sign

James Wagstaff, Zoe Carter and Oli Le Lievre at the 2022 Australian Rice Growers’ Conference. Photo: Supplied.

The upcoming 2023 Australian Rice Growers’ Conference in Griffith will demonstrate how the industry has developed a triple partnership model that is the “envy of the world,” according to Ricegrowers Association (RGA) President Peter Herrmann.

“The conference brings together our industry arm, RGA, our commercial entity, SunRice, and our research component, AgriFutures Australia,” Mr Herrmann said. “Not many other industries have those three segments working so closely together and all on the same page. It is a sophisticated model and it’s world leading.”

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The two-day conference, to be held on Thursday, 10 August, and Friday, 11 August, will focus on new agribusiness technologies, business risk management, tax and succession, the economic outlook and Murray Darling Basin Plan reforms.

Mr Herrmann, a Murrami-based rice grower, said the sector was facing unprecedented challenges, with both political and environmental factors likely to make water even more scarce in the future. But collaboration within the industry had put them in good stead.

“The way ahead is controlling the things we can control. Research has gone up four-fold in our industry … we have got everyone in the same room, so when there are shocks, it’s not ‘if’ but ‘when’, we are in a position to get the best outcomes for everyone, so we have winners and winners.”

Panel discussion with rice field background

Panel discussion at the 2022 Rice Growers’ Conference. Photo: Supplied.

To learn more about overcoming the toughest challenges, organisers have secured adventurer and filmmaker Tim Jarvis AM to give the conference keynote address. Mr Jarvis has completed several unsupported expeditions to the world’s remotest regions and is known for his recreations of the Antarctic journeys of explorers Sir Douglas Mawson and Sir Ernest Shackleton.

University of Melbourne Professor of Sustainable Agriculture Richard Eckard is also invited to discuss his research on carbon farming and carbon neutral agriculture. He was recently named on the Reuters list of the world’s 1000 most influential climate scientists.

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Region Group Editor Genevieve Jacobs AM, a veteran journalist who grew up on a family farm near West Wyalong, will be the conference’s master of ceremonies.

There will also be several panel discussions, including the highly topical ‘Advocating for ricegrowers in the Murray Darling Basin’ forum, which will be facilitated by SunRice’s Rachel Kelly.

Mr Herrmann said he believed the Murray Darling Basin Plan, which sets limits on how much water can be used for irrigation, had generally got the balance between environmental and agricultural needs right. But he was concerned about what the future might bring.

“We have reached a point where we have to make a decision. Do we shut down the rice and dairy industry, or do we appreciate the balanced approach that has served us well for the past 15 years … the processes that are in place need to be appreciated for what they are, they’ve been successful. We don’t hear enough about success … what we lack in an environmental sense will not be rectified by just taking more water.”

The conference will begin with a sold-out Women in Rice breakfast at the Bull & Bell steakhouse and conclude with a rice industry awards ceremony and gala dinner. Further information on the two day-event can be found online.

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