The Hon. Michael McCormack, Minister for Small Business and Member for Riverina, the Hon. Sussan Ley, Member for Farrer, HMFD Patron Tim Fischer, our loyal exhibitors, the many volunteers, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.
To stand on this stump as Chairman makes me very proud and humble.
This year’s display is no doubt the most outstanding ever.
This is a testament to our exhibitors, generous sponsors, our wonderful staff, both office and outdoor, capably led by CEO Belinda Anderson. Not forgetting our many members, especially the younger generation and last but not least my fellow directors and volunteers.
I would like to acknowledge the contribution made over the years by two past directors Howie Muller and Shai Feuerherdt.
As Graeme Hicks is winding down but not leaving HMFD, I would like to acknowledge the outstanding service he has given to the field days.
Graeme worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring the Farm Gate Market and Taylor Wood Pavilion from a dream to reality.
He is currently developing demonstration areas.
On the farming side, I sincerely hope we can score some saving rain as soon as possible to bolster regional crops.
But, on a positive note, we have enjoyed record commodity prices for cattle, sheep meat and wool.
I direct those interested in the trial plots located on the southern side of the static display as they are a credit to Baker Seed Co.
The quality of the entries in the this year’s Natural Fibre Fashion Awards in the Country Lifestyle pavilion is outstanding, with garments from designers as far as Western Australia and New Zealand.
Country Lifestyle co-ordinators Lyn Jacobsen, Leonie Kohlhagen and their team have put together a fantastic program for all ages.
The core of the Henty Machinery Field Days philosophy has always been about showcasing innovation and the latest technology in agriculture to the farming community.
This year marks a milestone in our history as the first autonomous or driverless tractor makes it debut at the field days at the New Holland site.
The tractor, which can be controlled or monitored from a desktop computer, is among the first steps towards a future where robotics will be common place on the farm.
On display near the autonomous tractor is a Raupenstock endless chain tractor, which was originally built 100 years ago this year, and showcased at the first Henty vintage machinery display in 1977.
Field day visitors can see for themselves how far machinery design and technology has come in the past century but perhaps the greatest efficiency gains will be made in the next decade.
The rapid rate of digital development across all sectors of the agricultural industry will be a challenge for workforce change.
It will be a challenge not only for industry participants, but also policy-makers and education and training providers in ensuring the agricultural sector has access to the workforce it requires in the future.
At the core of this sector is the family farm.
Family farms have generated, on average higher returns than their corporate counterparts and have provided most of the capital that underpins the Australian farm sector.
Around 60 to 70 per cent of investment is provided directly by the owners of family farms.
However, we cannot dismiss the significant contribution the corporate sector makes to farming.
It can provide new operating models and through the aggregation of farmland, exit strategies for older farmers or help in succession planning.
As we move into 2018, the outlook for agriculture is positive with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences reporting the gross value of farm production to be up almost $5 billion compared with the five-year average.
In Australian dollar terms, export prices of wool, wine, lamb, barley, cheese and mutton are forecast to increase in 2018.
We are privileged to have Mark Bennett, Head of Agribusiness and Emerging Corporate, Regional Australia, ANZ, to official open the field days.
Congratulations to ANZ on the opening of their new digital branch in Wodonga earlier this month.
On that note, I extend a warm welcome to our many visitors – I am sure there is something here of interest for each and everyone at the 54th Henty Machinery Field Days.