National Farmers' Federation

Jock Laurie elected new NFF President

TODAY Australia’s peak farm body, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), elected Alexander ‘Jock’ Laurie (pictured) as its 10th President, with outgoing President David Crombie stepping down after completing his full four-year term.
Mr Laurie, 51, returns to farm representation after a year off, following his four years as President of the NSW Farmers’ Association (NSWFA), during which time he also served on the NFF Board and Members’ Council. He has been an Executive Councillor with NSWFA since 2000.
A fourth generation grazier, Mr Laurie and his wife Lyn, along with their three children Caroline, Alexander and Angus, run fine wool sheep, cross-bred lambs and cattle at their ‘Torsmond’ property near Walcha in NSW.
Mr Laurie paid tribute to David Crombie for his outstanding service, presiding over a period of demonstrable achievement, which included major policy breakthroughs, a seismic shift in public perception of Australian farmers and ushering in a new era of farm representation (see ‘Attachment A’ below for more details).
The new President also acknowledged Charles Burke for his six years as Vice-President of the NFF, as well as chairing the NFF Economics Committee since 2003 and the NFF Drought Task Force since 2004. He also thanked outgoing Board members Bill Bray, John Cotter and Nick Keatinge for their service.
Mr Laurie welcomed the election of Duncan Fraser as the new Vice-President of the NFF, along with the election of two new Board members in Brent Finlay and Joanne Grainger, and the re-election of Board members Charles Armstrong, Andrew Broad and Alf Cristaudo.
Major NFF achievements under David Crombie
* Reform of the NFF membership model. Following an 18-month review and winning the unanimous support of members, a new and more inclusive NFF structure was launch on 1 July 2009. This radically reshaped the NFF’s membership to reflect modern agricultural activity across supply chains, resulting in membership growing by 41%.
* The Environmental Stewardship program was groundbreaking, a world-first that commits governments to partnering with farmers and paying them for environmental works.
* The exclusion of agriculture from Labor’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the Coalition’s climate policies, so that regardless of who is in government, farmers will be better off than otherwise would have been the case.
* The mandatory Horticulture Code of Conduct, protecting farmers in their contracting with wholesalers, was finally implemented after a long-running political dispute.
* The NFF entered a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Government and the Minerals Council of Australia to address skills shortages in regional Australia.
* After years of debate, the NFF won changes to the Trade Practices Act to strengthen ‘Misuse of Market Power’ and ‘Unconscionable Conduct’ provisions for farmers.
* The NFF won an historic ruling in the Australian Fair Pay Commission in 2007, for the first time deferring the national wage case for farmers in light of the ongoing drought.
* The NFF’s ‘Workforce from Abroad Employment Scheme’ won government backing – this recruits employees from Pacific Island nations on temporary visas to fill chronic seasonal job shortfalls on Australian farms.
* While water reform has been slow and piecemeal, the NFF ‘locked in’ the Federal Government in only buying water from ‘willing sellers’ and drive the introduction of an on-farm infrastructure efficiency program.
* The NFF maintained its vigilance in ensuring agriculture is central to Australia’s trade policy negotiations, while also supporting a network of farmers globally through the Cairns Group Farm Leaders’ forum.
* Ensured that Telstra’s CDMA service was not switched off before kinks in its Next G network were resolved – winning farmers a major reprieve in ensuring service delivery.
* The annual NFF National Congress and the Innovation in Agriculture Awards were launched in 2009, as a major platform for raising modern farm issues, promoting the sector and celebrating its successes.
* The Primary Industries Education Foundation, which the NFF initiated and drove, was created to ensure school children are better informed and engaged about modern agricultural activity.
* In the Australian Industrial Relations Commission the NFF won major concessions for farmers under the modern Award process, specifically the Pastoral and Horticultural Awards.
* This year the Federal Government launched the WA pilot of the drought management and preparedness reforms the NFF championed – a major shift in proactively dealing with drought and investing upfront in better drought-proofing Australian farms.
* The NFF won an exemption for farmers from new tax rules under non-commercial loan provisions.
* Since 2006, the NFF has won seven ‘Awards for Excellence’ from the Public Relations Institute of Australia – five state awards and two national awards – for its Public Affairs campaigns; and
* Through these campaigns, Australian perceptions of farmers have changed dramatically. Market research saw a 92% disapproval rate in 2006 shift completely to 94% support for farmers’ positive environmental contribution and economic importance to the nation, in line with new NFF messages, reflecting better informed attitudes and heightened positive awareness.

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