National Farmers' Federation
The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) is the peak national body representing farmers and, more broadly, agriculture across Australia. It is one of Australia's foremost and respected advocacy organisations.
The NFF is dedicated to proactively generating greater understanding and better-informed awareness of farming's modern role, contribution and value to the entire community. One of the keys to the NFF's success has been its commitment to presenting innovative and forward-looking solutions to the issues affecting agriculture, striving to meet current and emerging challenges, and advancing Australia's vital agricultural production base.
NFF's members are the state-level farmers' organisations, national commodity councils, and other affiliated members. According to the NFF charter, state-level farmers' organisations represent the interests of the agricultural sector in their respective states while issues related to individual commodities or interstate/national farming concerns are represented by relevant national commodity councils. The NFF focuses on those policy issues that affect all farmers – regardless of location or commodity – including such issues as farm business and productivity, access to markets, natural resource management, biosecurity, animal health and welfare, education and training and workplace relations.
NFF Policy is set by the NFF Members’ Council, which comprises the Presidents of the NFF’s 26 Member organisations. The NFF members are:
- Australian Dairy Farmers
- Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council
- Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association
- Australian Pork Limited
- Australian Veterinary Association
- Beechworth Honey
- Corporate Agriculture Group
- Cotton Australia
- Cattle Council of Australia
- Goat Industry Council of Australia
- Northern Territory Cattlemens’ Association
- Pastoralists’ Association of West Darling
- Ridley Corporation
- Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia
- Sheapmeat Council of Australia
- Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association
- Western Australian Farmers Federation (WAFarmers)
- WoolProducers Australia
Jock Laurie, a grazier from Walcha in the New England region of NSW, was president of the organisation from late 2010 until April 2013, when he resigned to run for preselection for the NSW National party in the NSW seat of Northern Tablelands. At Laurie’s resignation, Duncan Fraser, former NFF Vice-President became President. Fraser will remain President until the next AGM, scheduled for November 2013.
The current CEO of the National Farmers' Federation is Matt Linnegar, replacing former CEO Ben Fargher who stepped down from the position in January 2011.
Formed in 1979 as the single national voice for Australian farmers, the NFF brought together the many disparate organisations of the day - unifying the often conflicting agendas at both state and national levels.
Australia's farm leaders recognised the need for a unified position, with 'cohesion of purpose' as the most practical means of achieving real gains for farmers.
The creation of the NFF - and its determination to be an independent authority for farmers' rights - proved a catalyst in shaking politicians, of all persuasions, out of any complacency regarding the needs of the farming community and rural Australians.
The first conference of the NFF took place on Friday 20 July 1979, where Sir Donald Eckersley was elected inaugural President.
Past presidents and officers of the NFF are:
- The late Sir Donald Eckersley OBE, WA dairy farmer. NFF President, 1979-1981
- Michael Davidson OBE, NSW grazier. NFF President, 1981-1984
- Hon. Ian McLachlan AO, SA, VIC, NSW woolgrower and pastoralist. NFF President, 1984-1988
- The late John Allwright AO, TAS grazier and poppy grower. NFF President, 1988-1991
- Graham Blight, rice, corn and grain farmer. NFF President, 1991-1994
- Donald McGauchie AO, VIC grain, dairy and merino stud farmer. NFF President, 1994-1998
- Ian Donges, NSW cropping, prime lambs and beef producer. NFF President, 1998-2002
- Peter Corish, NSW/QLD cropping, prime lambs and beef producer. NFF President, 2002-2006
- David Crombie, QLD cropping and beef farmer, NFF President, 2006-2010
- Jock Laurie, NSW farmer and grazier, NFF President, 2010-2013
- Duncan Fraser, NSW farmer and grazier, NFF President, 2013 – present
Executive Directors/Chief Executive Officers
- John Whitelaw, NFF Executive Director, 1979-1985
- Hon. Andrew Robb AO, NFF Executive Director, 1985-1988
- Rick Farley, NFF Executive Director, 1988-1995
- Wendy Craik, NFF Executive Director, 1995-2000
- Anna Cronin, NFF Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, 2000-2005
- Ben Fargher, NFF Chief Executive Officer, 2005-2011
- Matt Linnegar, NFF Chief Executive Officer, 2011–present
Historically, NFF was a key player in a number of industrial relations disputes, including:
- Australia's infamous Waterfront Dispute - calling for reform to yield productivity gains over union-lead labour demands;
- The shearing Wide Comb Dispute - advocating and securing the need for efficiency gains through adoption of new technologies; and
- The Mudginberri dispute - the AFFF's first case, against the Meat Industry Employees Union, enabling the sector to challenge and overturn long-standing inefficiencies, securing major outcomes, which wore down union dominance in Australian industrial relations.
NFF Honour Board The NFF Award of Honour was introduced in 1987. It recognises those individuals who have made an important contribution to a strong, progressive and sustainable farming sector and to the NFF.
- 1987 W.E.L (Bill) de Vos AM
- 1988 J (Jim) Tehan AM
- 1990 D (David) Partridge
- 1993 R (Roy) Smith
- 1999 J.W.S (John) Mackenzie
- 2000 A.K. (Alick) Lascelles
- 2002 G.J (Graham) Blight
- 2004 Hon. Ian McLachlan AO
- 2009 Geoffrey Crick
- 2009 John Underwood
- 2012 Alex Arbuthnot AM
Key Policy Priorities
NFF policy is the agreed policy position of the NFF Members’ Council, the Presidents of the 26 NFF member organisations. Policy is debated at regular NFF Committee and Members’ Council meetings.
The NFF has always made it very clear that, as stated in its constitution, it is an apolitical organisation. Despite traditionally conservative voting patterns across rural Australia, the NFF assesses the policies and actions of Governments and opposition parties on their merits.
The NFF’s key policy areas include:
- Farm business and productivity
- Access to markets
- Natural resource management
- Biosecurity, health and welfare
- Education and training
- Workplace relations
The NFF has been involved in a number of major policy debates in Australia, including most recently, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, carbon tax, foreign investment, drought policy reform and livestock exports.
More details on policy areas and specific positions around them can be found via the NFF website.
The NFF has run its National Congress three times, in 2009, 2010 and 2012. The two first Congresses focused on modern farming, and adapting to the changing agriculture environment. In 2012, the Congress was around understanding, and capitalising on, the food and fibre boom. Key conference presentations, speeches and photos can be found on the Congress website.
Blueprint for Australian Agriculture
In February 2013, the NFF released the first ever Blueprint for Australian Agriculture. Almost 4,000 farmers, transporters, retailers, consultants, rural businesses, agribusinesses, educators, governments, rural communities, community groups and consumers took part in the development of the Blueprint from October 2011 to February 2013.
The Blueprint is a strategic plan for the Australian agricultural sector and its supply chain, setting out its future direction. The Blueprint is the first cross-industry plan for the sector, developed by the sector.
In 2013, the NFF has moved into the legacy phase of the Blueprint: turning the Blueprint document into action.The Blueprint was developed with the support of Westpac, Woolworths and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, with Westpac and Woolworths continuing their support into the legacy phase, along with new partners Bayer and Syngenta Australia. For more on Blueprint, visit the website here.
The Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund
Established in 1985, the Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund (AFFF) provides financial, legal and professional assistance to farmers facing major issues that have the potential to set legal precedents.
The Fund was created out of Mudgenberri dispute in 1985, funded in part by farmers and in part by non-farming businesses. The AFFF is governed independently of the NFF, and is controlled by a Board of Trustees, three of which are independent trustees.
The current trustees are:
- Mr Hugh Nivison, Chairman;
- Mr George Mack;
- Mr Donald McGauchie AO
- Mr Jock Laurie
- Mr Duncan Fraser;
- Ms Joanne Grainger; and
- Mr Matt Linnegar;