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Soil health, crop biotechnology advocate Duncan Young recognised

AT the WAFarmers grains and livestock conference in Muresk last week, an award was presented to someone who reflects everything we stand for and do at Grain Producers Australia.

Duncan Young was recognised with a certificate of distinguished service for his contributions to WAFarmers over many years.

This acknowledged his work to the advancement of agriculture as a member of the WAFarmers Grains council since the early 2000s, applying his knowledge and experience in areas such as crop biotechnology, sustainability, soil health, climate resilience, farm technology and more.

In presenting the award, WAFarmers president John Hassell described Duncan as the "classic quiet achiever", who has made a "massive contribution for the greater good, without needing, or even wanting to draw attention to himself while he does it".

"As a leader, Duncan is a man of great moral compass. He will back you in 100 per cent of the way when the facts are laid out. He sees through all the smoke and mirrors, and he lets the team come to their own conclusions without exerting any personal agenda," John said.

It's impossible to measure the true value of Duncan's impact and influence, representing grain producers not only in WA, but also on national policy through GPA.

Underneath these headline achievements sits a selfless contribution and commitment comprising many hours of meetings, phone calls, emails, reading and responding to policy documents and more.

While his name may not be a household one, many growers will recognise the genuine benefits his passionate advocacy has helped deliver to their own farm businesses, such as access to new crop varieties, including those developed with scientifically proven crop biotechnology.

Some may ask what motivates someone like Duncan to stand up and represent other growers from their local community, and be their voice on policy issues.

Duncan's humble response at the WAFarmers dinner summed it up, saying he was grateful for the friendships he's made and the opportunity to be able to give back to his community.

The applause and recognition Duncan received from the other WAFarmers members and the invited guests also clearly showed the level of true respect he'd earnt from his peers.

Duncan Young can hold his head up high, knowing what he's done for other growers, and the recognition he's gained from other growers, has been solely focussed on giving back to them and their communities.

This aspect of grower representation and grass roots voice is enshrined in GPA's DNA and makes me proud to be involved.

Duncan's contribution representing grower was also at the forefront of my mind while sitting on a panel at the conference, discussing the national perspective of grower representation.

This panel included grains and others leaders of their peers and communities throughout Australia, for sheep and cattle.

Wool Producers Australia chair Ed Storey spoke about the challenges faced by his members, with wool producers facing increasing consumer driven challenges and political pressures.

Many grain farmers also produce other commodities such as sheep and wool and it struck me that we should be doing much more to work together and collaborate, to prosecute common problems and find solutions.

For example, we pay a lot of money in levies to our various RDCs and we're always trying to get better bang for our buck, from those levies.

We also represent the democratic grass roots processes of those growers who pay to be members of their state farming groups and do what we can to deliver outcomes that improve our bottom lines.

But we also know about the 'free rider factor' whereby not just growers, but also commercial entities who also pay levies, benefit from our work, but they don't contribute directly to support the volunteer efforts of people like Duncan Young.

What we also have in common is people like Duncan who take their responsibilities representing the grass roots voice of other growers very seriously and give selflessly.

That's why they also have great respect for the democratic processes which enshrine our grass roots organisations.

These core principles also resonated with me, when reflecting on the Roundtable of grains industry groups who met with new Agriculture Minister Murray Watt last week.

I'd hope the new minister also recognises and appreciates the genuine passion and grass roots, democratic voices of other farm leaders, just like Duncan, who are integral to GPA and our members, and clearly demonstrate the character and quality of farm representation we stand for.

This opinion piece was first published on June 28, 2022 at Farm Online.


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