30 Nov

First National Ag Day Not Without Controversy

Image: Australia’s first national Agriculture Day celebrated the contribution of the industry. Photo Farmers’ Market from Wikimedia, under a Creative Commons 2.0 License.

Australia’s inaugural National Agriculture Day was hosted on Thursday 21st November, organised to highlight the significance the industry plays in the lives of all Australians.

The #AgDay celebration was originally the idea of Gina Rhinehart, led by the National Farmers Federation and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The movement aimed to ‘celebrate the remarkable contribution of agriculture to Australia’s economy and society’ through events and a media campaign, with consumers encouraged to join in on social media.

According to the National Farmers Federation, the campaign reached 8.7 unique social media accounts, with 130,000 views of the AgDay video and stories featured by mainstream media outlets including The Daily Telegraph, The Australia, Channel 9, Channel 7, Fairfax and the Today Show. More than 50 events were hosted around the country including a pop-up farmers market for Canberra growers held at NFF House.

AgDay Backlash

The event wasn’t without controversy with farmers accusing industry bodies of ‘selling out’ by accepting money from retail giant Coles. The company’s managing director, John Durkan, was featured in an official video on the National Agriculture Day website where he highlighted the link between agriculture and the ‘millions of jobs in retail and other industries’.

In an interview with the ABC, prominent Mallee farmer Andrew Broad hit back at Mr Durkan’s comments saying ‘[Coles] can’t put their hand on their heart and say, ‘down, down, prices are down’, which is cheapening food in the mind of the consumer. You can’t have that and have supermarkets running around saying they’re friends of the farmers and [they’re] going to sponsor National Ag Day’.

Farmers also expressed their concern about the involvement of Gina Rinehart in the event with one grower publically challenging NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar to ‘pull #NFF support for #AgDay until it is non-partisan and not a Gina PR trap’.

During the official AgDay Gala dinner, Ms Rinehart sung the praises of former Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce, describing him as a ‘champion of our industry’ and a ‘dedicated, understanding and enthusiastic minister’ before awarding him with a cheque for $40,000.

Less than a day later, Mr Joyce publicly declined the cheque after a backlash from the industry and political opponents. During his acceptance speech, Mr Joyce had claimed he would spend the money on his own farm.

National Farmer’s Federation President Fiona Simson said that the NFF had no prior knowledge about the award for Mr Joyce, ‘We were not consulted & completely surprised by the presentation last night’, she wrote in a tweet.