In February, DFAT hosted Mr Pekka Pesonen, Secretary-General of Copa-Cogeca, and Mr Joe Healy, President of the Irish Farmers’ Association, for a week of engagement with ministers, government officials, agricultural industry representatives and farmers.
A comprehensive visit program took them to experience first-hand an Australian dairy, a meat processing facility and sheep shearing. Driving across the dry expanse of the Australian rural landscape gave the EU visitors an appreciation for the climatic challenges facing farming communities, exacerbated by the current drought.
Their visit provided opportunities for discussion with government and industry on shared interests and challenges. Ministers and senior officials highlighted Australia and the EU’s shared commitment to trade liberalisation and concerns around the effect of climate change on the agriculture sector.
In addition, Australian industry representatives demonstrated the realities of Australian agriculture and their deep commitment to sustainable farming practices and innovative approaches to managing the impact of climate change.
A key focus of the visit was to connect Mr Pesonen and Mr Healy with Australian farmers. National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson hosted a roundtable of industry representatives and farmers for a valuable exchange on experiences and key challenges in agriculture on both sides of the globe.
Mr Healy (a dairy farmer himself) rolled up his sleeves to help with the milking during their visit to the Coster family dairy farm in Gippsland as part of an Australian
Dairy Farmers co-ordinated a visit which included a third generation traditional Italian cheese manufacturer Floridia Cheese.
Both visitors enjoyed a traditional Aussie barbecue during Meat and Livestock Australia’s facilitated visit to Teys’ Wagga Wagga facility where Mr Pesonen and Mr Healy experienced Teys’ strong commitment to standards and quality. Later they visited Garangula farm to observe the shearing team in action and the excellent condition of their Angus cattle.
The visit successfully connected EU agriculture policy influencers with farmers as well as Australian agriculture and trade policy makers. Mr Pesonen and Mr Healy had the opportunity to see first-hand the conditions and challenges faced by Australian farmers, but also the high quality of our systems and standards, and the deep commitment to sustainability, animal welfare, the environment and scientifically-based policy.
In return, Mr Pesonen and Mr Healy shared key messages from EU farmers, that they were concerned about farm-gate prices, but that there are substantial areas of common interest, including on managing the impact of climate change and the importance of science and technology in agriculture.