Message from new AIR EP Chair, Bill Long

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As I step into the role of Chair following the recent Annual General Meeting, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the AIR EP community for putting their trust in me to lead the farmer-driven organisation into its next chapter.

A big thanks to outgoing Chair Bryan Smith, who successfully oversaw the merger of LEADA and EPARF, and the setup of a new, bigger and better farmer-driven organisation. Board Member John Richardson has also stepped down, and I thank John for his valued input in those crucial early years.

Bringing two groups together has certainly increased critical mass, making AIR EP more equipped to service farming groups – from funding, to networking, to research and development. What AIR EP has delivered in the first two years is astounding, with $5 million worth of projects currently on the books.

Our strategic focus in the short term is to address geographical considerations here on the EP and ensure we’re targeting projects relevant to farmers.

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.

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

There is lots going on, particularly in the sandy soils area, as there is a huge variation of soil types across the EP. There is a vast interest in soil amelioration, which can be a game changer with certain soil types. We will continue to help facilitate this, to understand where the investment needs to be made, to overcome some of these issues.

There is also some excitement with the introduction of new crops here on the EP. There have been some high yielding lentil crops in the lower and medium long rainfall districts of EP this season, with some first-time growers suggesting they intend to increase areas sown in years to come.

Investments in programs such as the recent GRDC pulse development project, run through AIR EP, that support the development of new crops to the region, are vital in building grower confidence and taking on new ideas that increase profit.

I’m looking forward to the roll out of several key upcoming projects, namely on risk management, and environmental sustainability.

We’ve engaged quality people to work with local communities on risk management, which consists of working through current farming systems, examining and challenging these systems, and exploring other possibilities which may benefit the operation.

When it comes to the environment, farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the environment they are operating and making decisions 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.

As farmer myself, I acknowledge the frustration on the ground now, with wind and rain continuing to rob many of potential all-time high yields. But fingers crossed the season will still pull through and we’ll record a good year here on the Eyre Peninsula.

Finally, I’d encourage you to chat to your neighbour, make sure they are engaged with AIR EP. It’s an opportunity to mix with a like-minded community interested in research and development opportunities that increase profitability here on the EP.


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