Farmer-led research group appoints new chair

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Updated November 30 2022 – 9:40am, first published November 29 2022 – 1:30pm

New AIR EP chair Bill Long. Picture supplied.

Experienced and well-known farming identity Bill Long will lead AIR EP into its next chapter, bringing a high level of strategic thinking to the farmer-driven organisation.

Mr Long was elected as Chair at the recent Annual General Meeting, with inaugural Chair Bryan Smith stepping down.

Mr Long, a farmer and consultant for more than 30 years, has a strong association with many farmer systems groups and boards, including the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the Birchip Cropping Group (BCG), the SA Ag Excellence Alliance, and Yorke Peninsula Alkaline Soils Group, to name a few.

AIR EP Chief Executive Naomi Scholz says Mr Long will bring energy and new ideas to the role, with strong networks across SA.

“Bill not only has experience on boards, but brings sound agronomic, farm business, and decision-making knowledge to the role,” she said.

Tasked with leading AIR EP into delivering more than $5 million worth of farmer-led projects, Mr Long is confident in the initiatives being rolled out by AIR EP.

“What AIR EP has achieved in its first two years is astounding. Bringing together two smaller farming groups into a capable business, well equipped to service farming systems groups, manage service providers, increase networking opportunities, attract funding, the list is endless,” Mr Long said.

“A lot of time has been spent developing strategies to help assist farmers increase profitability here on the Eyre Peninsula, and I look forward to assisting in the further facilitation of this.”

Mr Long has highlighted several areas which require further strategic implementation, including addressing geographical considerations, and targeting projects relevant to farmers.

“The EP is a big place and there are still black holes that aren’t being serviced well. These include along the eastern seaboard (Eastern Eyre area) as well as west of Wudinna. We need to cover these areas better, and ensure farmers are receiving adequate support,” Mr Long said.

“We also need to ensure farmers are getting the best out of projects we deliver. Farmers learn from other farmers, we need to facilitate discussion amongst ourselves and allow farmers to look over the fence, so to say.”

Mr Long is excited about upcoming key projects, namely on risk management, and environmental sustainability.

“We’ve engaged quality people to work with local communities on risk management, to work through current farming systems, examine and challenge these systems, exploring other possibilities which may benefit the operation,” Mr Long said.

Another growth area is environmental and land management.

“Farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the environment they are operating and making decisions to manage the land resource with the long term in mind. There are many new opportunities in the energy, carbon, and biodiversity space, and beginning dialogue and discussion in these areas is an exciting new direction.”

Mr Long’s advice is to get involved by contacting a Board member or staff member.

“We’re here to make a difference, mixing with a like-minded community who want to get ahead,” Mr Long said.

AIR EP has paid tribute to outgoing Chair Bryan Smith, and Board Member John Richardson.

“Bryan had a large influence on ensuring the relevance of research for upper Eyre Peninsula in many projects and was a strong advocate for attracting funds to the region and ensuring local capacity for research development and extension (RD&E) was maintained,” Ms Scholz said.

“He oversaw the merger of EPARF and LEADA to form AIR EP, and ensured the organisation was set up and in a good position to attract RD&E to the Eyre Peninsula.”

For more information, or to be become involved with AIR EP, visit the website or contact EO Naomi Scholz on 0467 004 555 or Chair Bill Long on 0417 803 034

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