FISH Creek farmer Meg Parkinson has thrown her hat into the ring for the top job at the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF).
Meg is one of three candidates for the position of VFF President. The others are Chris Nixon, a beef and dairy producer from Orbost, and Peter Tuohey, a grain, wool and lamb producer from Pyramid Hill.
Meg, who runs a free range egg farm at Fish Creek with her husband, Geoff, has been an active participant in the VFF for many years. In the past she has been Deputy President, Vice President, Chair of Farrer House Ltd and Chair of the VFF animal welfare committee. She is currently president of the VFF Industrial Association, a member of the VFF Water Council and a member of the Egg Group Executive (she was President for eight years to 2007), and Secretary of South Gippsland Branch.
Meg said that as VFF President she would work to see that politicians, bureaucrats and advisors as well as other organisations are made aware of VFF policies and the needs of members.
“As VFF President I will work to ensure our messages reach decision makers. I will work to ensure members have more viable businesses and I will work to ensure that it is a disadvantage not to be a member of VFF,” she vowed.
“Membership of VFF has decreased in the last few years. Farmers need to be aware that they are missing out on lobbying and information that can make them more viable. Being a VFF member is a sensible business decision – particularly for young farmers. A generational change on the farm should not mean fewer members. We need to actively recruit the younger people taking over family farms.”
She continued: “Most farmers are in small business. Many policies aimed at this sector have a great impact on us, but our voice has not been heard before now. I will work for members. I will have the VFF focus on benefiting farming families’ income and other needs. Farmers need to see membership of VFF as a sensible business decision, as we do.”
Meg is on the Federal Government’s Gene Technology Ethics Community Consultative Committee, the Victorian Government’s Small Business Ministerial Council and the Produce and Grocery Industry Code Administration Committee.
“The Produce and Grocery Industry Code Administration Committee is a committee of farmers, supermarkets, wholesalers and government which oversees the Ombudsman’s Code of Practice,” she said. “The Code deals with supply chain competition predominantly within supermarkets and wholesalers. My work on these committees and in running our production and wholesale egg business has convinced me that VFF needs to work to improve the bottom line of members. This can be by improving income, reducing costs or improving conditions under which we farm.”
Meg is also promising to work towards fairer local government rates for farmers.
“Local government rates have a direct effect on farmers’ bottom lines,” she said. “I will work to ensure that farmers do not continue to be the only ones who are charged local government rates on land which is used to produce products which they sell to make a living. No-one else is charged rates on what is used to produce their income.”
RESULTS AT ANNUAL CONFERENCE
As well as the three candidates for the VFF presidency, there are two farmers standing for VFF Vice President. They are Echuca dairy farmer Craig Ash and David Jochinke, a grain grower from Dimboola. The results of the elections will be announced at the close of the VFF Annual Conference to be held this week – Thursday April 19 to Friday April 20 – at Bendigo.
Up to 400 farmers from around the state are tipped to attend the conference. Over two days, delegates will debate issues including foreign ownership, carbon tax, carbon farming, animal welfare and land-use planning.
The Federal Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Joe Ludwig, will be officially opening the conference.
Well-known speakers and guests will include the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, Australian Farm Institute Executive Director Mick Keogh and media personality Sam Kekovich.
The conference will feature a panel discussion on animal welfare and food production, including Maria Mercurio from the RSPCA, Glenys Oogjes from Animals Australia, Professor Paul Hemsworth from the University of Melbourne Animal Welfare Science Centre and Chris Nixon, President VFF Livestock.