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Data - the new productivity and competition catalyst

Mick Keogh - Sunday, May 21, 2017

Imagine that you are a livestock farmer who has sold lambs that will be consigned to two different processors, and you are trialing two different ram sources in your prime lamb enterprise. Being able to identify the lambs from each ram source and compare the carcase characteristics of each bloodline group is going to be a key step in identifying which bloodline will best increase enterprise productivity. Imagine at the same time you also operate a cropping enterprise, and have managed to accumulate ten years of yield map data from your current harvester, which you use to apply variable rate crop planting and fertiliser programs that improve cropping productivity. You are now considering the purchase of a competing brand of harvester which promises better performance, but has incompatible yield map formats for your current planting equipment, and you potentially face the loss of the benefits arising from all the accumulated data if you switch. View the rest of the post here

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Regional development, structural adjustment and decentralisation: similar horses but different races

Mick Keogh - Sunday, April 23, 2017

There has been a fair bit of discussion over recent months of moves by the Australian Government to relocate government departments to regional cities and away from the major capitals. Some have interpreted the Government's actions as an exercise in "pork barrelling" specific electorates, presumably to curry political favour. Others have viewed the measures as a futile attempt to prevent or slow normal regional structural adjustment, in the wake of the mining boom. The government has defended the moves as part of a broader push to decentralise the Australian population, or at least to alleviate some of the population pressure in major cities. The confusing nature of the debate is unfortunate, as it runs the risk of tarnishing the notion of decentralisation, which seems to have some important potential benefits for the national economy. View the rest of the post here

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Australia's beef industry needs to get productive, and fast

Mick Keogh - Monday, April 10, 2017

Two recent events have highlighted the competitive challenge faced by the Australian beef industry. Anyone lulled into thinking that the current high cattle and beef prices will persist over the longer term might need to reconsider that opinion, and quickly! View the rest of the post here

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"Right to repair" debate highlights critical issue of data rights

Mick Keogh - Sunday, March 26, 2017

"Right to repair' has become a catchcry of equipment users (including farmers) in the USA of late as a number of state legislatures propose legislation that would in some way prevent manufacturers from restricting owners or independent repairers from carrying out repairs on equipment ranging from mobile phones to large farm tractors. In many respects this debate is a sub-set of a much broader debate about rights to access and use data generated by digitally-enabled equipment and technology. View the rest of the post here

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Market transparency matters

Mick Keogh - Sunday, March 19, 2017

In the current post-regulation era for Australian agricultural markets, there is a growing awareness of the importance of market transparency as a key factor to ensure markets remain competitive, and the benefits of sectoral efficiency gains are distributed equitably through supply chains. The focus on market transparency is much stronger in overseas markets, and governments expend significant resources to maintain it in specific markets. View the rest of the post here

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Environment improving but scientists are reluctant to admit it

Mick Keogh - Sunday, March 12, 2017

Australian land managers have dramatically improved the state of the environment over the past decade, with native vegetation clearing rates dropping to almost zero, farms being replanted with trees, native plants and animal populations reinvigorated, pest animal populations controlled, water and wind erosion significantly reduced through better management practices, and the agriculture sector leading the way in developing projects to mitigate greenhouse emissions.  However, while all these improvements are noted in the State of the Environment report released last week, the authors persisted in painting a gloomy picture of the future. View the rest of the post here

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Despite the good times, risk remains the key feature of farming in Australia

Mick Keogh - Monday, March 06, 2017

This week's annual ABARES Agricultural Outlook conference will no doubt have a strong celebratory mood, given the very positive seasonal conditions that have prevailed over the past twelve months for most of Australian farmers, and the generally strong commodity prices (save for cereals and dairy). However, the defining feature of the agriculture sector in Australia has always been risk, and there is little evidence that concerted efforts are being made during the good time to better prepare the sector for future risks. View the rest of the post here

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Decentralisation could cure a range of ills

Mick Keogh - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In a recent speech, former head of Treasury Ken Henry once again raised the concept of decentralisation as a means of addressing some of the challenges facing Australia's major cities - including congestion, high real estate prices and the struggle to provide adequate services and social support to the ever-expanding outer suburbs. The concept is not new and has considerable potential benefits, but Australian Governments don't have a good track record when it comes to implementation and the persistence needed to make these policies work.  View the rest of the post here

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US bans on illegal immigrant workers may benefit Australian farmers

Mick Keogh - Monday, February 20, 2017

A key policy promise of US President Donald Trump during the recent US election campaign was to round up illegal workers and deport them, because these workers are 'taking the jobs of US citizens'. If enacted, this policy would have a very large adverse impact on US farming and the food processing sector, and in particular on the US horticulture sector and meat and poultry processing. The implications of these US policies for Australian agriculture are unclear at present, due to uncertainty about future US trade policies. View the rest of the post here

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Not a bad time to be a farmer

Mick Keogh - Monday, February 13, 2017

The release by ABARES of Australian Commodity Statistics in December each year provides an opportunity to look at some of the longer-term trends occurring in the Australian agriculture sector, and there is no doubt that the most recent batch of statistics released paints a very positive picture for most sub-sectors. View the rest of the post here

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