How the world's best ag advocacy bodies engage with the grass roots

How the world's best ag advocacy bodies engage with the grass roots

Making Our Voices Heard News
GROWING THE GRASS ROOTS: Nuffield Scholar Daniel Meade will speak about engagement in advocacy at Making Our Voices Heard this afternoon.

GROWING THE GRASS ROOTS: Nuffield Scholar Daniel Meade will speak about engagement in advocacy at Making Our Voices Heard this afternoon.

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Making Our Voices Heard panel member and Nuffield scholar Daniel Meade travelled the world studying how agricultural advocacy bodies engage with farmers.

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This afternoon, Daniel Meade will explain at the Making Our Voices Heard event how the world's best agricultural advocacy groups get the grass roots involved.

The Nuffield scholar left his south-west Victorian dairy farm in 2017 to travel the world and says it's time to encourage new classes of members from rural and regional communities.

"I don't think, with declining numbers, we can be as choosy about who comes on board with us," he said.

"I'm a fan of an open door policy and anyone wants to come in, let them in so we can have more numbers on board but also get more people connected with agriculture.

"They don't have to be a farmer to be a member in my view.

"There are examples of UK countryside members, NZ rural professional members and those options are not currently easily available, certainly in the dairy sector.

"Adding more weight to advocacy makes a big difference when you're trying to get policy change in your direction."

Mr Meade is also a firm believer in making lobby body memberships more accessible for farmers.

"It's not surprisingly that one of the most affordable and simple memberships has the most members signed up," he said.

"The American Farm Bureau has around six million members and most states charge a flat fee - the New York Farm Bureau is US$75 for all.

"When you have that many members, politicians are more likely to listen."

Coupled with accessibility, Mr Meade believes industry bodies need to demonstrate value for money and stay close to members, something he believes is lacking locally.

"Communication's probably faltered, offices have become more centralised, the focus has gone away a bit from the branch meetings and from the base level," he said.

"Declining memberships happen when the value proposition of the organisation isn't clear," he said.

"NFU in the UK is probably the best at outlining how each of the dollars spent from your membership fee or levy fee is returned by advocacy wins.

"They try and sell the value proposition in monetary terms and value for money, the return on investment.

"Others I visited said that was too hard to do, that a lot of these deals are done behind closed doors and they're not allowed to talk about it - I'm a bit sceptical of them.

"Farmers are business people and if they want to invest in spending money, they want to see return on their investment.

"So I don't believe it should be for the sake of it, they should have to earn it and demonstrate how that's done."

Mr Meade will join NFF president Fiona Simson, Australian Farm Institute chair and immediate past Australian Pork Ltd chief executive Andrew Spencer, Australian Live Export Council chair and former agriculture minister Simon Crean, Australian Dairy Farmers chief executive and former Cattle Council of Australia chief executive David Inall in a discussion facilitated by ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh today.

A handful of tickets are still available to join the event in Melbourne but those who cannot attend in person can watch the rma network livestream, either on the Stock & Land Facebook page or online at Making Our Voices Heardfrom 1.30 to 2.30pm.

Readers are also invited to get involved in the conversation and text their questions through to 0439 770 392.

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