Speech: Georgie Somerset for AgForce's 20th anniversary event

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Speech: Georgie Somerset for AgForce's 20th anniversary event
Thursday, 28 Nov 2019

Hi everyone. Most of you would know I’m Georgie Somerset, South Burnett cattle producer and General President of AgForce.

I hope everyone is having fun tonight and not talking shop too much. Unless it’s to reminisce and share old war stories. This is, after all, a celebration. A time to reflect on AgForce’s first 20 years – everything we’ve achieved so far, as well as a chance to look forward to everything that’s still to come.  

But before I go on, I’d like to acknowledge:

  • The Minister for Agriculture Industry Development, The Hon Mark Furner, MP
  • Leader of the Queensland Opposition and Shadow Minister for Trade Deb Frecklington MP
  • Director General of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Dr Beth Woods, OAM
  • President of the National Farmers’ Federation Fiona Simson
  • NFF CEO Tony Mahar
  • Inaugural General President of AgForce, Larry Acton
  • My fellow AgForce Directors
  • AgForce CEO Michael Guerin
  • Our MC tonight, co-host of QLD Country Hour Arlie Felton-Taylor
  • And offer an apology from Immediate Past General President Grant Maudsley

I’d also like to make special mention of dear friends no longer with us:

  • Former General President Peter Kenny, a passionate and well-respected advocate for agriculture and rural and regional Australia,
  • Industry stalwart John Stewart, widely regarded as the 'godfather' of Australia's epic Brucellosis & Tuberculosis eradication campaign and AgForce’s expert on native title

Now, I feel like I must begin by saying that it’s quite a thing that I’m standing before you on two legs tonight. Not because I’ve had one too many red wines, but for those of you who don’t know this already, I’ve spent the past several weeks in hospital and unable to bear weight or drive thanks to an errant cow on mine and my husband Robert’s property.

It got me thinking, this wound to my knee and leg, about AgForce and the past twenty years. As Queensland’s peak advocacy group for broadacre agriculture, we have also, as an organisation, taken our share of blows along the way. It’s only natural when you’re in the business of standing up for a particular section of the community, especially when that section is on the fringes, not by the measure of what it actually produces or provides for the people of Queensland, Australia and those around the world.

But farmers and farming are largely out of the spotlight. We do, as producers, live life on the periphery. And most of us wouldn’t have it any other way. We love our land, our animals, our wide-open spaces.

Now being able to withstand those blows and injuries is partly why AgForce was formed, out the already robust bones of the Queensland Grain Growers’ Association, the Queensland Cattlemen’s Union, and the United Graziers’ Association all those years ago – to be the single, unifying voice for Queensland’s broadacre producers, to be even stronger than each of those individual organisations already were, some of them more than 100 years old.

The vision back then was for AgForce to be a more powerful entity, able to achieve more wins, more often. And I’m happy to say that we are.

We have earned a formidable reputation as a policy leader, championing the issues that affect Queensland’s beef, sheep and wool, and grain producers and agriculture more broadly.

Issues like:

  • vegetation management and tree clearing
  • native title
  • water reform, including overland flows, native title vesting, riparian rights, separating water title from land, and trading water allocations
  • improved telecoms for the bush
  • wild dog control programs
  • chemical use and residues in agriculture
  • timber harvesting
  • defending the shearing industry award
  • our projects to advance sustainable agribusiness, for example, our BMP programs, and our in-house GIS skills
  • our SIPP and Ag education programs
  • our community engagement work, including the ‘Every Family Needs A Farmer’ campaign and our current ‘Stand Up for Regional Queensland’ campaign which will continue to run throughout 2020

Our policy work is important.

But our true strength lies in our membership, now totalling more than 5,500 and growing, providing policy direction and solutions to challenges, while building upon opportunities for rural producers.

AgForce can take on the issues individual producers can’t – we are stronger together, and in turn so are our businesses and our regional and rural communities.

An AgForce membership allows Queensland producers access to a network of like-minded people where we can grow and develop our enterprises through our free exchange of ideas.

When I stood to be General President it was because I believed we needed to strengthen our governance, as the role we play in bringing society and government together with industry is critical.

Our predecessor organisations had already laid down strong foundations, and along the way we have embraced many different philosophies in order to ensure the long-term growth, viability, competitiveness and profitability of Queensland’s broadacre industries.

We were already strong, but we could, and we still can be. That added strength is essential if we’re to continue to withstand the changing times we live in.

A stronger organisation and a more sustainable one – one that works hard for members, delivering benefit to them and to our corporate partners, that helps deliver legislation to Queensland’s rural producers to enable increased levels of productivity and to promote agriculture more broadly.

So…as I said at the beginning, this AgForce 20th anniversary celebration should be a night of fun – a joyous occasion to reflect upon who we’ve been and who we are and of all the battles and triumphs along the way.

It took a team to get me from my property near Kingaroy to Brisbane, and another team to put my shattered tibia back together again.

I’m here tonight, standing, because of them.

And AgForce isn’t any different. We support each other to do the work we need to do to ensure our members – the hard-working farmers that provide the food and fibre we all enjoy – can continue to do what a lot of us take for granted.

It’s that strength of spirit and teamwork and comradery, that ability to get back up again after we’ve been knocked down that makes me believe the best of us is yet to come.

Now someone get me a chair – my bloody leg is killing me!

Enjoy the rest of the night.

Speech: Georgie Somerset for AgForce's 20th anniversary event

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