A new voice for horticulture

By Gabrielle Stannus

With the recent announcement of the new National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Horticultural Council, you could be forgiven for wondering if the horticultural lobby is growing top-heavy. So what is different with this new forum?

Speaking on this topic during his “State of Play” address at the Growing Edge conference in March, Peter Vaughan , NGIA CEO said that the new NFF Horticultural Council provides a real opportunity for genuine national representation on those issues that affect all agriculture, including horticulture.

The NFF formed its Horticultural Council to present a united front on factors that impact all of agriculture nationally. Where issues that jointly impact both agriculture and horticulture need to be managed at a national level, then the NFF Horticultural Council provides an influential position from which to lobby for change. These issues include but are not limited to biosecurity (e.g. exotic, endemic and emerging pests) and water shortages, the latter affecting not only horticulturalists, but also cattle and sheep graziers, grain growers and so on.

Rather than addressing these national issues from the perspective of individual sectors, the NFF wanted to pick up and drive change on an industry-wide front.

The Voice of Horticulture continues

The NFF Horticultural Council has not replaced the Voice of Horticulture, which still retains its ability to advise, lobby and influence on horticultural issues at a national level. Instead, the Voice of Horticulture has become one of this council’s new members, along with other commodity groups including the Australian Blueberry Growers' Association, AUSVEG, Apple and Pear Australia Ltd, Dried Fruits Australia and Summerfruits Australia Limited. Voice of Horticulture continues to represent horticultural growers and businesses across fruit, vegetables, nuts, mushrooms, turf and nursery production, including members of NGIA.

NGIA stepping up

Some NGIA members may be wondering how nurseries will be represented at a national level given the number and type of organisations sitting on not only the NFF Horticultural Council, but also participating in Voice of Horticulture.

Peter Vaughan wanted to ensure that the nursery industry is well-represented in the Voice of Horticulture and the new NFF Horticultural Council. He currently sits on and is actively involved in the board of Voice of Horticulture, an organisation generally noted for its focus on production horticulture. His position on this board is not earmarked for NGIA representation. However, Peter decided to nominate for this position to ensure that the nursery industry and NGIA member interests would be strongly represented in that organisation.

Given his position on the Voice of Horticulture board, Peter is one of its representatives that is able to attend NFF Horticultural Council meetings. Having a seat at this table means he is able to understand and share issues important to nurseries with this forum.

More than just production horticulture

Having attended several meetings of the NFF Horticultural Council, Peter says its initial focus has been on production horticulture. He argues that NGIA needs to raise the profile of issues related to environmental, ornamental and urban horticulture within this council. One example is the need to encourage more greening in urban areas through 202020 Vision to improve health and well-being outcomes especially at the local level. The benefits of this program also translate into economic gain for growers and retailers.

Working through this forum does not restrict NGIA from continuing to represent its members, with NGIA retaining the ability to lobby at the local, state and federal levels of government. For example, NGIA still makes representations on a local or regional level on issues including, but not limited to, water restrictions. NGIA also works with individual or groups of businesses to address the economic impact of such shortages on those regions.

Peter said signing up to the NFF Horticultural Council required a certain “leap of faith”. However, he believes that this new council actually provides a united way to move forward. The council provides a united policy forum for working across common themes and issues that affect all agriculture, including horticulture. This saves the many groups on that council precious time and resources, which they would otherwise have to expend if lobbying separately.