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Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan dismayed by grains funding shortfall

Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan has expressed disappointment over the value of a WA grains research program jointly backed by a national grower-funded body.

The Grains Research Development Corporation contributed $22.5 million of the recently announced $48 million program and the State Government the remainder, after several years of “vigorous negotiations”.

“This is a research partnership that really gives us some long-term trajectory, looking at the potential of WA’s grainbelt soils, and projects to really boost canola, oats, lupins and pulse production,” Ms MacTiernan told the WAFarmers Trending-Ag 2019 conference.

“It’s a good program but we wanted it to be bigger — we wanted it to be an $80 million partnership,” she said on Thursday night.

“We were prepared to put $40 million in but we have not been able to achieve that at this time.”

Ms MacTiernan said WA needed to collectively lobby at a national level for more funding.

She hoped recently appointed National Farmers Federation board member Tony York, who stepped down as president of the WAFarmers, could become a national voice in ensuring the State could get a fairer share of the research funding pie.

“We really need to refocus that effort on R&D and I’m working very hard to secure that capability within WA,” Ms MacTiernan said.

Farmers pay 0.9 per cent of the value of grain as levies. In 2018-19, that would amount to nearly $70 million based on the highly profitable $7 billion harvest.

GRDC managing director Steve Jefferies previously said the recent funding announcement was only one part of the body’s investments with its WA research providers.

In addition, GRDC invested nationally and internationally, which also benefited WA growers, he said.

Ms MacTiernan added her voice to calls for a merger of WAFarmers and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, saying it would provide the industry with a united voice.

Talks of a merger reignited recently. WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington last month proposed a dialogue between the two groups on joining forces.

“I think it would be a good idea,” Ms MacTiernan said. “The industry does need a united voice and if we could get a single organisation that more people could join, that would be a very positive thing.”

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