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25 November 2020
BY DYLAN DEJONG
Wimmera-Mallee farmers can expect to see a new face leading representative body Victorian Farmers Federation before the end of the year.
Federation members will decide between Gippsland horticulture and livestock farmer Emma Germano and Mallee grain grower Leonard Vallance, who are vying to be elected the group’s next president.
The successful candidate will replace Wimmera grain grower David Jochinke, who has served the past two terms as president.
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Mr Vallance has served as the VFF’s livestock group president, while Ms Germano has been vice-president for the past two years.
If elected, Ms Germano would be the first female VFF president in more than three decades.
She said the organisation ‘desperately’ needed to modernise to appeal to young farmers.
“The VFF is seen as old school. We need to modernise the way we get policy through the organisation,” she said.
“We need to support the young growers and engage on a grassroots level. We need a breath of fresh air in terms of the culture.”
Ms Germano said past years had shown the group had failed to represent all commodity groups in the agriculture industry.
She said the group must ensure it can provide equal representation for all farmers across the state.
“It doesn’t matter where people farm or what they farm in the state, they need the same thing from the VFF, which is a cohesive voice of solidarity among all the commodity groups,” she said.
“We need to strengthen people’s relationship with the organisation.
“The VFF needs to start sowing back into the community, rising up our farmers, providing professional development, turning everyone into an advocate.”
Mr Vallance said his farming background, which crossed over many commodity groups, would serve him well to represent farmers across the state.
“In my previous role in Crime Safe I got to know the chicken, dairy and meat industry very well and I already had a background in grain, cattle and sheep,” he said.
“Whether it’s people in the high country who have a constant war with wild dogs, feral pigs and deer, or whether you’re way out west at Nhill or Kaniva and dealing with invasive weeds or animal welfare issues, I’m here.
“You have to listen to people from different production systems and environmental conditions, and understand the social pressures they have on them.”
Mr Vallance said his focus would be to bridge the connection between ‘paddock to plate’.
“Australian farmers produce some magnificent food and pride themselves on the integrity of our product,” he said. “But some of the biggest challenges we face is informing consumers of how their food is produced – very few of our consumers have direct access to farmers on a one-on-one basis.
“There’s been an disconnect for quite some time now.”
Mr Vallance said technology could play a major role in connecting consumers with farmers and industry.
“It’s up to us to provide the tools to convey our stories to the consumer,” he said.
Election results will be announced on December 10.
The entire November 25, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
The entire November 25, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!