April 9, 2013
The ability of the NSW Government to retain existing front line service officers in its new Local Land Services agency will be a key test for the restructure of agriculture extension services in the state, NSW Farmers said today. Association president Fiona Simson said keeping the core of the Department of Primary Industries extension staff is crucial to a fully functioning agricultural service and to the regional and rural economy in NSW. Ms Simson said front line service officers,including those continuing in the Department of Primary Industries and those who go to the new organisation (LLS) and how they worked with industry, were important to the future of agriculture in NSW. “Agronomists and livestock officers develop and promote good research, practices and techniques as well as provide valuable advice to farmers from their in – depth knowledge of local production systems. If this agency is going to work it must retain its district agronomists and livestock off icers,” she said. Ms Simson said the LLS must also have sufficient elected representation from local communities, focus on production and biosecurity issues as well natural resource management. “Our members’ worst fears are that the new LLS will be a re-branded farmer funded Catchment Management Authority with production issues like animal health and pest management as an afterthought,” she said. “Farmers are also seeking a guarantee this new agency will truly focus on production and biosecurity issues. “Many of our farmers from around the state have attended numerous workshops but are still nervous about what the new agency will mean for them and rural communities. I hope they have been heard and that the new organisation reflects what our farmers have had to say during the workshops,” she said. Consultation workshops on the LLS end this week before final recommendations are made to government. The LLS is due to be operational in January 2014 and will replace 14 Livestock Health and Pest Authorities, 13 Catchment Management Authorities and the advisory services provided by the Department of Primary Industries. It will be run by local boards of elected and skills-based directors. Ms Simson said members were also demanding the new LLS be driven by local priorities with a minimum of 50 percent of local boards made up of local ratepayer representatives. This week the NSW Government requested the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal conduct a review into the development of a rating framework and service pricing system for the LLS. Ms Simson concluded that farmers would be more than bitterly disappointed if the new agency turned out to be just another tactic to slog ratepayers with the cost of service delivery. “There are significant public benefits involved and the government needs to continue to play its part,”she said.