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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Local agriculture to be given a voice through employment of new council officer

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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 on Wednesday night that the position would finally be filled.

The Executive Officer of 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.’

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  1. I am all for the appointment of an Ag officer, provided we are talking someone who works with existing conventional farmers, and does not start with a philisophical bias against everything but feel good organics or related. Happy to embrace the full range of farming, but not if its a biased approach. I am also just wondering about some of Mr Orchard’s reasoning about being a potential food supplier to SEQ, particularly during a cyclone. During such events half of the shire is likely to be under water – no food from the low lying lands. Of the remaining land above flood, whatever crops are left standing after the deluge will be flogged to pieces by cyclonic winds. In order to “secure” our local food chain, we will need to be farming inside shipping containers to withstand cyclonic winds and deluges – this means container farms, above flood level, with indoor hydroponic growing & LEDS, all fed by solar from somewhere else during the cyclone, as generally speaking cyclones mean heavy cloud cover and no radiation underneath and feathered wind generators. That will keep our new Ag Officer busy don’t you think? anyway, thats my two bobs worth.

  2. Though Joel and others should be congratulated for their commitment to the position and sustainable agriculture, this story seems to infer the position was a result of lobbying and council wa almost forced to do it- this is completing inaccurate. I have been advocating for this position for quite a while, often speaking of it during the last election campaign. Council had earmarked it for well over a year, it simply took a while to complete our rural strategy first. The application for funding has also been long in the making. After chatting to Joel about this for about 2-3 years it is awesome it will soon happen, and not a day too soon.


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