Ministers say DPI extension role is over: big mistake

The government has announced that the “DPI’s days of offering extension services to farmers were over with private-sector consultants taking on the role”. This is a mistake of gargantuan proportions. The farm is not the natural habitat of a propellor head but it wouldn’t be the same farm without them. And, dare I say it, their work wouldn’t be the same without continual and close working relationships with farmers.

Working together ensures the DPI’s work remains relevant and, perhaps even more importantly, we share ideas. Because farming is so practical, so low margin and framed in the unpredictability of nature, it’s critical that information flows back and forth between researchers and practitioners (farmers). In other words, researchers value our experience.

All this is aside from the fact that we simply can’t afford a highly paid buffer between the DPI and the farmers they serve.

According to the same Weekly Times article, Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president Peter Tuohey agreed DPI’s extension role was no longer needed. I’m gobsmacked. My VFF membership subs cheque is sitting on my desk. Should I send it with advocacy like this?

I hope it’s not too late to reverse this policy shift. Many of our brightest DPI people may already have been lost if these numbers quoted by the The Weekly Times are accurate:

“THE Victorian Department of Primary Industries has been stripped of 236 regional staff. But its Melbourne office has grown by 126 in the past three years.  Data seen by The Weekly Times shows DPI’s metropolitan Melbourne workforce surged to 1248 in June this year, equal to almost 48 per cent of all its 2693 employees and contractors.”

I’ll be writing to the VFF, my local member and the Minister. Please add your voice to support our regional DPI programs and experts.