22 August 2014
REINVENTING the research, development and extension (RD&E) investment consultation model is the first priority for Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) in a restructure announced this week.
The restructure included a new model, in which producers nationwide will be invited to provide input at a local level on RD&E priorities that feed into the regional RD&E investment plans. These plans will sit with the Northern Australian Beef Research Council (NABRC), a reinvigorated Southern Australia Meat Research Council (SAMRC) and a new regional group encompassing southern West Australia.
So what is the NABRC anyway?
MLA managing director Richard Norton has upheld NABRC as the model for better producer engagement with MLA’s process of investing in R&D.
Ralph Shannon, who will have chaired NABRC for four years when he moves on from the post next month, likens the Council to a three-legged stool.
One leg is grassroots engagement with producers through 11 regional committees – six in Queensland, three in the Northern Territory, one in the Kimberley, one in the Pilbara.
The directors of the committees travel to a twice-yearly regional council meeting to communicate any issues that have arisen in their region, and carry home any relevant information.
“Each committee has its own dynamic,” Mr Shannon said. “Some are quite formal, some are about whoever comes to the meeting. It’s an ownership thing, so I didn’t tamper with that.”
Another leg rests with the stakeholders – the cattle industry, through AgForce, the NT Cattleman’s Association, WA pastoral groups – and R&D investors like CSIRO, the universities, the three State jurisdictions and MLA.
The third leg points to engagement with overarching bodies like Cattle Council’s research committee, and attempts to influence the political agenda through the Federal Department of Agriculture.
“What NABRC has done is create an effective forum for the exchange of ideas between investors and producers,” Mr Shannon said.
“That should mean an improved focus of the R&D portfolio toward those things that industry thinks are important, and therefore a greater uptake of the outcomes of those research projects.”
“I’d say at NABRC, we are being successful in the first two aspects, but not as successful as we’d like to be in the third.”
Ideally, Mr Shannon thinks, the role of an organisation like NABRC should be to foster a culture of innovation. “It’s about building a constantly innovating and innovative system, and in that process, industry becomes more effective and productive.”
Within that “holy grail” should be recognition of reality, Mr Shannon added: producing beef is a balance of compromises around seasonal conditions, climate change, the need not to overtax resources.
Driving for increased productivity is essential, but it is not the only driver of cattle production. Any successful interface between producers and other organisations, and any investment strategy, in Mr Shannon’s view needs to take into account the constant balancing act that is agriculture in Australia.
Courtesy of The Land