Byron Shire Council is set to employ an officer to represent the local agriculture industry.
Following months of lobbying by local farmers and industry representatives, Council staff told a meeting of representatives last Wednesday night that the position would finally be filled.
The executive officer of sustainable and localised farming co-op Future Feeders Joel Orchard said he and others at the meeting were told the position would be three days a week initially, but could later be increased to full time.
‘They said they had put in an application for state government funding to make the position full time,’ Mr Orchard said.
‘We were very pleased about the result – getting a designated agriculture officer had been on standby for too long.
‘It indicates that the council is open to agriculture as an industry in the Shire and to giving that industry a voice.’
The promise from staff came after a petition with 150 signatures was delivered to the council, along with a letter signed by 25 local farmers and agriculture industry representatives.
Council had also hired two consultants to investigate the state of agriculture in the Shire and how it could be assisted.
Mr Orchard said he expected the officer would help to address ongoing conflicts between agricultural and residential land use such as noise, the use of sprays and livestock.
He also expressed the hope that the officer would also help to support the concept of a local food system – a model in which the community generates its own sustainable food sources rather than relying on the traditional unsustainable supermarket supply chain.
‘As we have seen in the last couple of years, our food system is basically dependant on long supply chain logistics and wholesale distribution out of the centralised markets,’ he said.
‘Any break in the line creates huge food supply and security issues as we have seen in the last couple of years during cyclone season when the supermarket shelves are emptied in a matter of days.’
‘We have a huge opportunity in the northern rivers with perfectly suited conditions, soil and rainfall to grow a wide variety of crops all year round to serve our local food needs and position ourselves as a key producing region for the large urban populations in the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
‘We haven’t even scratched the surface of the regional potential.’